Alley: Bold community outreach gives us the best developments

It’s been an interesting few months in the world of citizen involvement, politics, and development in Scottsdale.

Residents have found new power in their collective voices and decision makers have taken notice. Those traditionally calling the shots can no longer rely on the backroom deals they once made in the comfort of an oblivious public.

Instead, they must ask what they can do to make the lives of Scottsdale residents better.

Andrea Alley

This is exciting. This is my hometown and where I am raising my children. I hope it will be where they want to raise their own children someday. I think we all want that.

This will be accomplished in partnership with engaged citizens, the people who invest in our communities, and city leadership who truly listen and work to improve our neighborhoods. Why do I know this? Because it’s happening before our eyes.

Papago Plaza was put in the spotlight in recent months. The day after the first additional outreach meeting, I received an email from the project’s architect, Jeff Brand, asking to meet to discuss the design of the property, the intended — and overshadowed — topic for the night before.

Their team also met with neighbors most closely affected to find solutions for their concerns as well.

In the weeks leading up to the second outreach I learned not only how much design truly affects what we experience, but also about the heart and soul that the team put in to this project over the past few years.

Jeff lives in south Scottsdale, and admitted that, selfishly, he wouldn’t have worked on this project if he couldn’t create a place he would want to take his own young family. After seeing the final presentation at the second meeting, I believe he and the rest of the Papago team have delivered within the boundaries of what was approved to build.

Carter Unger, the developer of the Southbridge II project, also reset my expectations.

I had read a few articles about everything that is planned for this ambitious development — offices, hotels, condos, parking, retail, art space, parks, restaurants… height. But what got my attention was the way Carter, son of the late and widely-admired Fred Unger, actively sought input from the community — dart-throwing and all.

The first time I met him, he said, “If I take away more than I give back, then I’m doing it wrong.”

He admits that there are aspects of his project that people simply won’t like. On the flip side, he is up against city staff who have “studies” that make some of what he wants to do — like build additional parking — lined with unnecessary red tape. Merchants and visitors in Old Town would tell you we are experiencing a parking crisis.

It’s a battleground with aggressors on all sides, which is why he wants to gather as much information as early as possible to make as many stakeholders — most importantly, Scottsdale residents — as happy as possible.

His project hasn’t even gone to the Planning Commission yet — and he is holding an open house — tonight — before it is presented next week (details below).

I feel a tremendous sense of optimism about the future of development in Scottsdale because, like me, architects like Jeff and developers like Carter are young parents, looking to build a better city for the children we are all raising here.

We don’t want to do it through shady back-room deals that line our pockets. We want to do it in partnership with our neighbors. And we can address the council’s giveaways at the ballot box in 2020.

Perhaps some think that’s adorable and idealistic. To those who do, I challenge you to ask yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave behind, and I invite you to step over to the right side of moving Scottsdale ahead.

Of all the things I’ve taken away from this experience, it’s that a collaborative spirit — on all sides — can do a lot of good for everyone involved. We got a better project out of Papago. And we can shape the biggest development to hit Old Town in years earlier in the process than I’ve ever seen.

Had you asked me a few months ago — back when we were fighting to pass Prop 420 — if I would ever write a piece like this, I would have laughed in your face.

Please join us tonight, March 6, at 6 p.m. at Crisp Premium Pizza, 7111 E. 5th Ave., Suite F, for the Southbridge II open house.

We’ll have pizza and renderings, then Q&A starts at 6:30 p.m. Bring your questions, concerns, ideas — and an open mind.

You can simply show up or RSVP here. We look forward to seeing you there!

Editor’s Note: Andrea Alley is a wife, mom, and co-founder of the South Scottsdale Project.

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