The vertical influence of Scottsdale Road development offers new view of Kierland

A look through a visual corridor at the tip of Scottsdale Road — a place bordered by both the municipalities of Scottsdale and Phoenix. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia)

From luxury resorts and affluent shopping destinations to innovative multifamily housing down to traditional single-family brick and mortar, the Kierland area on both sides of Scottsdale Road is a hot spot for forward-thinking development — and burgeoning commerce.

The Kierland label is used to describe an area straddling Scottsdale Road and spans west to include a resort, a multifamily development, a few shopping centers and a financial center along Scottsdale Road.

The popular thoroughfare serves as a boundary for both cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale — with Scottsdale on the east and Phoenix on the west, roughly.

A view of what many believe to be the pinnacle of luxury multifamily dwelling construction: Scottsdale Optima Kierland. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia)

But to the welcoming arms of some and to the chagrin of others is a new precedent of both northern Phoenix and Scottsdale development: the vertical high-rise.

As the area grows outward and upward, residents fear growth will negatively impact their neighborhoods. Complicating matters is the fact two of the state’s largest municipalities are involved in those development decisions.

A collection of residents who live in the municipal boundaries of Phoenix — but who possess a Scottsdale address — are raising concerns about how the area is being developed.

“Our goal is to preserve the character of Kierland and the quality of life that defines Kierland,” said Amy Satterfield, who along with her neighbors has formed the Kierland Community Alliance. “Our neighborhoods have been active, well since the day I moved here. Whatever happens in the Kierland area directly impacts us here.”

Both Phoenix and Scottsdale residents say the Kierland Community Alliance was formed to serve as a neighborhood organization to provide a collective voice for development standards that maintain the character of the area.

At La Maison Interiors, 15450 N. Scottsdale Road, the owners of the property — Scottsdale-based DMB Associates — are seeking to create a multi-use structure spanning more than 100 feet in the air that is expected to house retail offerings and luxury dwellings potentially connected to a luxury resort brand.

Since La Maison is on the west side of Scottsdale Road, Phoenix City Council has jurisdiction over that development case.

Residents contend the project is too dense, too tall and will ultimately set a new development precedent taking away from the hometown charm of already established luxury towers and multifamily settings.

Meanwhile city officials say development trends follow market desires. Scottsdale and Phoenix to continue to diversify its economic base, as officials say, Class A office space is the name of the game.

The La Maison site where DMB Circle Road Partners is looking to further the form-based, multiuse zoning approach now prevalent in the Scottsdale Kierland area. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia)

The La Maison malaise

About 400 feet north of north Kierland Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, DMB Circle Road Partners seeks to build a singular building with multiple uses: ground-floor retail, a boutique hotel and luxury condominiums.

But the proposal seeking to rezone the 1.93-acre parcel at 15450 N. Scottsdale Road has been met with critical community consternation.

More than 150 residents turned out for the July 9 city of Phoenix Paradise Village Planning Committee to oppose the project. The original proposal sought heights nearing 200 feet and a level of density that could have brought 141 dwelling units on owned acreage.

Following resident outcry, the Village Committee — an advisory board to the Phoenix Planning Commission, which provides recommendations to Phoenix City Council — voted 9-5 to forward approval of the project with stipulations attached.

Those amended stipulations include:

  • A reduction of the proposed 196 feet of height down to 120 feet;
  • A 40 percent reduction in overall density of hotel room or multifamily dwellings; and
  • A requirement DMB officials comply with all of the city’s parking requirements ultimately requiring an additional two underground parking floors.

The Phoenix Planning Commission is expected to consider the project proposal Thursday, Aug. 2 while Phoenix City Council is expected to vote on the plan Sept. 5.

Nick Wood of Snell & Wilmer, who is representing the adjacent Kierland Optima luxury multifamily housing development, lauds the decision made by the Village Planning Committee.

“Clearly the Village Committee members saw through the irresponsible proposal submitted by the applicant. Unfortunately, the building closed at 9 o’clock p.m., and a couple of committee members were precluded from addressing the last major issues which is reconciling the amount of ground level active public open space versus building height and the traffic circulation,” he said.

For a structure at 120 feet in height, Mr. Wood feels the developer ought to provide 70 percent of ground-level public open space, which is identical to the neighboring Optima development.

“We look forward to resolving that issue at the next level,” he said.

Kierland Community Alliance Chairman Wayne Mailloux believes he and his cohorts scored a win for residents of the area.

Many in the area say the Optima Kierland development should be a model for all future development coming to the area. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia

“We are happy they added those stipulations,” he said. “It significantly reduces the density, which is way too high. They are trying to build too big a building on too small a lot.”

Mr. Mailloux contends DMB officials ought to use the nearby Optima Kierland development as an example.

“We believe they should be held to the same standard when Optima was approved and that was you get 120 feet when you have 70 percent open space,” he said.

Arizona Strategies Principal Karen Taylor, who serves as a consultant for DMB Circle Road Partners, contends her client is doing everything they can to appease neighborhood concerns.

“In an effort to be a responsible neighbor, we offered up two options for compromise,” she said. “We delayed our project for six months to open up view corridors. The city as you know, is not in the job of protecting the views or the view corridors — we want to receive permissions to build this multi-use development. People are moving to Kierland because of the environment that Kierland provides — that is what is making Kierland successful.”

Although DMB officials have agreed to 120 feet, Ms. Taylor contends, she also understands why the original proposal raised eyebrows.

“I think the 196-foot option probably made some folks think that would establish a new precedent,” she said pointing out the draw of the area due to its location and abutting amenities in both Scottsdale and Phoenix.

“But I think (Kierland) has become a significant engine for the city of Phoenix. It has become the gold standard for this type of mixed-use development. The completion of Loop 101 and continued economic growth and the amenities in the area — all of those things Kierland has — the magic that brought it all together.”

While diversification of an economy can be a positive, Ms. Satterfield points out height and density often translates to what established residents don’t want: traffic congestion.

“Height and density, that then leads to traffic in an already over-burdened area,” she said of the Kierland pocket. “I just don’t know how much more intensity that Scottsdale Road corridor can take. Scottsdale is also having major development on their side of the road. And, that traffic leads to cut-through traffic. We are looking for responsible development.”

A graphic representation of the Scottsdale Greater Airpark Character Area Plan. (Submitted graphic)

Class A all the way

The Kierland area overlaps the municipalities of Scottsdale and Phoenix and falls within a Scottsdale character area plan devised as the Greater Airpark, which contains the largest industrial-zoned area within Scottsdale city limits.

The 2001 Scottsdale General Plan designates the Greater Airpark as a growth area primed for flexible zoning standards and innovative approaches to form-based development, which is multiple uses like retail and residential in the same building or site.

The idea of multi-use development is tailor-made for the Greater Airpark, city officials say. But Tim Curtis, acting Planning Director at the city of Scottsdale, says a host of considerations go into the thought and design of a geographical area of a community.

“When you look at the our General Plan and the Greater Airpark Character Area plan, that tells a pretty good story on what the city has already adopted along that corridor,” he said. “It is pretty clear in that document that it is intended to be a very intense development portion of the community.”

On the Scottsdale side of things, Nationwide Realty Investors is proposing a regional corporate center on 136-acres on a 1,000-acre plot of state trust land northeast of the DMB project between Hayden and Scottsdale roads.

The yellow area shows Planning Area V, where Nationwide Realty Insurance plans to build their corporate center if they successfully purchase the land. (graphic by city of Scottsdale)

Scottsdale City Council in late June put in place significant changes making way for new development, height and density in the proposed Nationwide area.

The split vote — 5-2 — didn’t come without opposition as two city council members, one local commission and the general public voiced concerns surrounding the proposed development when it came to plans for 1,000 acres of land.

Nationwide Realty Investors plan to bid on the land at a state land auction later this summer.

Part of Nationwide’s development agreement includes a $21.9 million reimbursement for public infrastructure costs incurred by the insurance company. The total public infrastructure costs are estimated to be $30 million, Scottsdale Economic Director Danielle Casey says.

To an extent, the Greater Airpark Character Area Plan has this kind of development envisioned for the area.

“I think infrastructure plays a lot in making those decisions,” Mr. Curtis opines on how the private sector eyes large investment for long-term development.

“They are looking at land uses regardless of jurisdiction. I think we have been seeing that for some time and some of this in terms of anticipation will be dictated by the market and by the market pressures. We had market pressures to go vertical with Scottsdale Quarter.”

Virginia Korte

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte says a lot of intense development can be attributed to the pursuit of Class A office space that will ultimately result in a greater diversification of local Arizona economies.

In Scottsdale, the No. 1 piece of the local economy is tourism, but with great economic gains from people visiting also come great losses during down years.

Ms. Korte says it is time to prepare for the future.

“As we move into the future, 10, 12 or 15 years later, I believe we have an obligation to work with state trust land. Is it too much vertical? My perspective is it is the most important development in our community because it is meant to attract companies where people can afford to work, live, play and learn here,” she said.

“That scenario is one that our young talent is looking for. They are looking for those live, work, play and learn environments.”

Ms. Korte says the keystone is Class A office space.

“In order to attract those high-paying jobs, these large corporations such as Nationwide, such as northern Trust, who moved to Tempe because they had what they are looking for, which is Class A office space.”

While Ms. Korte contends Scottsdale Road is the moniker thoroughfare of the community, she contends branding will only get you so far.

“You can’t have that office space without the height,” she said. “It will ultimately diversify our economy. We estimate that a third of our economy is based on our tourism industry — that is great and that is something we need to protect and build on. But I also think it is also important to have a diversified economy when things like the Great Recession happen.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment