South Scottsdale resurgence shows signs of life along McDowell Road Corridor

Brian Yoell, owner of Man’s Best Friend Dog Grooming in south Scottsdale, is all smiles Wednesday, Jan. 25 as his business continues to grow along the McDowell Road Corridor. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

On an uncharacteristically crisp January afternoon in a modest strip mall along the McDowell Corridor shouts could be heard as Savannah, a pint-sized canine bolts through the front door of Man’s Best Friend Dog Grooming with a hot pink leash and collar in tow.

Savannah’s owner snags the leash, turns to Brian Yoell and politely exclaims “Not yet Savannah!” Mr. Yoell smiles wide, coddles the feisty canine and proceeds to check out his latest customer.
Just another day at the office at 8322 E. McDowell Road.

A quick wit with a thick beard and wearing camouflage shorts, Mr. Yoell says he is doing exactly what he wants: owning and running a top-notch dog grooming operation in south Scottsdale.

“I was born and raised in California. But then my mom died in March 2013,” he said in a Jan. 24 phone interview. “It was kind of an eye opening experience — I kind of think this is an eye-opening event for anyone. I literally thought I ought to do something that I wanted to do with my life. That is what pushed me to quit my job, sell my house and move to Arizona.”

Meanwhile back in 2013 the Scottsdale Independent was publishing the first of a series of stories focused on the revitalization of the McDowell Road Corridor, which is a place locals used to call “The Motor Mile.”

The previous owner of what is now Mr. Yoell’s pride and joy had just opened a similar operation and went on the record with the Independent saying she was hopeful the area was headed for a rebound.

Turns out, it was.

Mr. Yoell, who bought the business about seven months ago, says there is a definite sense of revitalization in the air in south Scottsdale.

“I found this place, that was at the time called ‘Doodley Do Dog Grooming.’ I came and talked to the owner and we came to an agreement,” he recalled. “We opened our doors June 21, 2016 and we are continuing to grow.”

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp says renewed growth in the McDowell Road Corridor and south Scottsdale region is more than just talk.

“There have definitely been more projects that have come forward — things that are now built or are being built,” she pointed out in a Jan. 24 phone interview. “There is a new interest in what is happening in south Scottsdale.”

Mr. Yoell says he is a recipient of the new projects sprouting all along the McDowell Corridor.

“I live in Phoenix, but now that I have the shop here, I do plan on moving into south Scottsdale in the near future,” he said.

“When I started we were fairly slow. But to date, we have done a ton of business. I did a direct-mail campaign, which was really effective. I have gotten my coupons in the new (apartment) tenant packages. I have done a lot of marketing. We are getting a tremendous amount of new customers.”

Doing business in south Scottsdale — along McDowell Road just a few miles east of the Loop 101 — has its good and bad points, says Mr. Yoell.

“There is a ton of housing in the area. That is nice and I have been getting tremendous support from the local community,” he explained. “People genuinely want see a small business do well. To have a groomer do well is a benefit to the community.”

Mr. Yoell points out the majority of new development is occurring just west of his location.

“There have been a few really nice and very large apartment complexes go up within the last two or three years and you can start to see more coming up. I think they used to be car dealerships,” he said. “I can’t wait until they go up so I can give them my discount card!”

The economics of a brand

Scottsdale City Council in April 2014 named revitalization of the McDowell Corridor its No. 1 priority.
In the winter of 2013 the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance was formed and has just announced its brand marketing plan to further push economic development.

City leaders refer to the McDowell Road Corridor as an eight-square-mile area spanning McDowell Road from Pima Road west to Phoenix and including surrounding neighborhoods north to Osborn Road and south to the city limits.

There was a time when portions of McDowell Road served as a major commercial artery pumping a constant flow of revenue into the coffers of local proprietors and the municipality of Scottsdale.

The Gateway Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization made up of local residents, proprietors and political leaders, seeks to advance investment and revitalization opportunities in southern Scottsdale, officials there say.

Following a series of one-on-one interviews, 17 focus groups and a 14-week online platform, SGA officials have unveiled a new logo — a hummingbird affixed between the words “South Scottsdale.”

The southern Scottsdale region has seen an influx of development, according to city records. The city of Scottsdale lists 29 active projects ranging from lighting upgrades at a public park to new multi-family building projects at its McDowell Corridor Development Activity Map.

Scottsdale Senior Planner Taylor Reynolds points out the map is designed to highlight development and revitalization efforts within the defined area.

“Specifically, it provides pinpoint locations of private development proposals that are active, recently approved, or currently under development — as well as current public projects. One of the interesting things about this map is that it pulls this information from the City’s Community Development System, automatically including up-to-date activity within the area,” he said in a Jan. 25 statement.

The data, says Mr. Reynolds, shows long-range planning at work.

“In 1996, city council approved the Los Arcos Redevelopment Plan as a means to revitalize commercial areas while strengthening local residential neighborhoods,” he explained.

“The plan suggested the renovation/redevelopment of the Los Arcos Mall as well as improved streetscapes along Scottsdale and McDowell roads — both of which have since come to fruition through Skysong as well as the Scottsdale and McDowell roads streetscape projects.”

Mr. Reynolds says a 2009 Gruen Gruen + Associates economic analysis also played a role in current development within the corridor and south Scottsdale.

“The report suggested that more high-density, residential uses were needed in the area as a means to bring in more residents to provide both the employment base and commercial patrons needed in southern Scottsdale to strengthen the commercial aspects of the area,” he said.

“Since the report — and adoption of the Southern Scottsdale Character Area Plan — the McDowell Road Corridor has seen requests to change commercially-zoned properties to residential — including Las Aguas, SkySong, San Travesia, and both Aire and Skye on McDowell.”

At the ground level

Scottsdale resident Sandy Schenkat agrees positive momentum is humming along in south Scottsdale.
“I think they have a mission as a group overall to make their area more friendly and more accepting,” she said of the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance.

Sandy Schenkat

“They want to get more businesses in that work with the local people. Keeping that historic district and architecture in place but combining it with new architecture that works. They are trying to create a harmony between the new and the old.”

Councilwoman Klapp says she is encouraged by the amount of data accumulated by the Gateway Alliance to help better market the area to prospective homebuyers, tenants and employers.

“They found out a great deal of interesting things about what people are looking for down there,” she said. “There are people who have lived and worked there. They feel as if it is walkable and a place for younger families.”

Councilwoman Klapp says local developers are giving south Scottsdale a closer look today than they were a few years ago.

“You don’t get them to come in when there are a lot of empty spaces,” she said of retail and hospitality developers. “Now that the population is there, now there will be  more people looking to locate there.”

Jeff Berghoff, Scottsdale Gateway Alliance president, points to expanding development at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, as one of the many success stories that have blossomed over the last four years.

“There are many success stories in south Scottsdale from the continued growth and expansion of SkySong, including the new restaurants under construction, the opening of McFate Brewing, two K. Hovnanian town home communities that just broke ground, and recently the Scottsdale City Council’s unanimous support of Scottsdale Entrada on the northwestern end of McDowell Road,” he said in a Jan. 25 written response to e-mailed questions.

“The Scottsdale Gateway Alliance has played a significant role in advocating for these projects and promoting them within the community.”

Mr. Berghoff says the recent marketing case study points to new pillars of the south community emerging in the marketplace. They are:

  • A perfect location, convenient to nearly everything, yet just far enough removed;
  • A quality of life that is youthful, vibrant, and optimistic;
  • An abundance of outdoor recreational amenities;
  • Unique and special architecture that reflects modern and mid-century modern design.

“The 15-month rebranding and identity building exercise has been a tremendous effort with literally hundreds of volunteers participating in dozens of activities,” he said.

“We are so proud and thankful that so many south Scottsdale residents gave their time and valuable input. It really demonstrates the strong sense of community that exist in south Scottsdale. We hope that through this effort that a real sense of ‘place’ has been established.”

Scottsdale Gateway Alliance Board of Directors President Jeff Berghoff in front of his design studio in October 2013 within the McDowell Corridor. (File photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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