Alexander: Papago Plaza’s redevelopment doesn’t do enough for Scottsdale

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Papago Plaza (submitted graphic)

Here’s a rendition of the proposed Papago Plaza redevelopment plan, with full details in the link.

It replaces nearly 120,000 square feet of retail in this now-defunct plaza, with a new design and new look. There will be a 20,000 square feet boutique grocery store, a few small restaurant\retail spots taking another 25,000 square feet, 450,000 square feet and five stories of new residences, a small five-story hotel, and a wall of concrete.

Jason Alexander

Is this right for one of Scottsdale’s busiest corners? Every project in the city should answer YES to these questions:

  1. Is it healthy growth?
  2. Is it financially responsible?
  3. Is it a partnership between residents and City Council?

This project is not any of those things.

It is a massive zoning exemption to drop more housing on top of an existing traffic snarl. The housing is not needed.

85257 is the hottest zip code for home sales in the entire Valley, according to the Phoenix Business Journal. McDowell and Thomas Roads have seen a huge uptick in multi-family units in the last few years, including the build-out at Skysong.

There are an additional three large projects planned or underway nearby: the McDowell apartments at 66th Street, a four story project at Scottsdale and Palm, and the Entrada project on 64th and McDowell, which is proposed to include a hotel, apartments, and be seven stories tall.

The city makes most of its money with retail sales taxes, not property taxes. The current residents for miles around overwhelmingly want shopping, services and fewer apartments.

The current plan will give them only a small grocery, something like a Chipotle and a Panera Bread and a Poki Bowl, and maybe a salon in the remaining 5,000 square foot building. The businesses abut right up to McDowell and Scottsdale roads, completing the canyon-like feeling from Skysong. A dense condo and hotel sit on top of neighbors to the west, and the old Papago Brewery.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Papago Plaza (submitted graphic)

This is not what the residents want. Scottsdale Quarter or High Street at Desert Ridge are some of the leading mixed-use complexes. They differ dramatically from this proposal in that their ground floors are ALL retail, and that they offer true community spaces like splashpads and plazas. Despite the developer’s comparison to Kierland Commons, this project only shares the height.

At a bare minimum, the parking garage should be underground like at Southbridge, not drowning out the views like the parking garage outside the Center for the Performing Arts.

Here is the plan’s blow-by-blow of requested zoning variances. According to the city’s own zoning code, this project does not belong at this location.

(submitted graphic)

(submitted graphic)

The developer-driven South Scottsdale Alliance says this is a best-in-class project, and key to South Scottsdale’s revival. Their PR team claims “WE MUST HAVE IT”, and that the plaza might lay undeveloped for the next 10 years if its rejected.

I disagree. This plan doesn’t do enough for the city. This is a great location, in a booming neighborhood, with a customer-base eager for commerce. The city desperately needs the retail sales taxes. This project has some good things, but it needs to be improved. We don’t need to sell our city cheap.

Editor’s Note: Jason Alexander is a Scottsdale resident. 

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