Germek: Museum Square, wait there’s more

In a recent article I highlighted the two most contentious issues voiced by the public concerning the Museum Square project — building height and parking.

AJ Germek

There are also a number of other concerns expressed by Scottsdale residents that should be addressed before the project is green-lighted by City Council.

“Public park”

The submittal compares the open space in the Museum Square project to a public park. But this is disingenuous. The developer controls access to the “park,” the types of events, approval of events, rules for events, dates, times and duration and enforcement of rules. This power would include cancellations or terminations of events based on complaints from the hotel and the apartment/condo residents.

When the developer sells the property, the new owner could reject any promises or concessions made by the developer.

Open space

The submittal states that approximately 60 percent of the Museum Square development will be open space and key elements. But the total square feet for the project footprint is 319,717 square feet. That means the 40,000 square feet Square known as the “public space” would only constitute 12.5 percent of the project. What are the other open spaces and key elements?

Connections

The submittal states the project would result in better connections to the Scottsdale Waterfront and Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. How? Those sites are almost a mile away and the developer is not proposing to build improved pedestrian walkways and bike paths to connect these areas. Any improvements in the connections would require a city initiative and funding.

Public amenities

The submittal states public amenities such a restaurant, outdoor dining, wine bar, interactive art gallery and other mixed use components are planned. Would any of these amenities be accessible directly by the public or would they all be accessed through and controlled by the hotel.

Visitor increase

The submittal states the project “will infuse new life with permanent residents and many thousands of continuous visitors.” How were these projected increases in visitors established? Who made these projections? Are specific numbers available?

Benefits to the arts

The submittal states that the 4-star hotel and the high income residents will benefit the arts community, presumably because they buy expensive art and attend artistic events. How was this established? Who is making these assertions? There are no planned collaborations with the arts community.

It is possible that Museum Square will pull visitors away from the art galleries and other attractions on Main Street.

Use of proceeds

There has been no indication as to how the city will spend the $27.7 million it receives in the sale. The funds should be used to improve the Old Town Scottsdale neighborhood and to preserve the ambiance of the area.

Environmental standards

The developer states that “sustainable strategies and building techniques, which minimize environmental impact and reduce energy consumption, will be utilized throughout Museum Square.” However, the developer also makes the following qualifying statements that completely dilute that promise.

  • “The building design and building systems will likely meet most significant measures associate with sustainability best-practices and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) equivalencies.
  • The developer “intends to incorporate sustainable design elements into the building and plans to develop in accordance with green building standards where feasible.
  • Energy considerations “may include, but are not limited to, recycled materials, energy efficient windows, energy efficient fixtures, appliances, and use of solar.
  • While not anticipated to secure LEED certification, the building design
and building systems will meet most significant measures associate with sustainability best-practices.
  • This project will comply with the International Green Construction Code’s “minimum baseline requirements.”

In addition, the buildings will be built based on the 2015 International Green Building standards. The 2020-21 standard is already being worked on. The developer should at least incorporate 2018 or later standards.

Solar energy

The project does not include any solar energy production (SEP) that could be used for all outside lighting and non-residential lighting for all the buildings. New Scottsdale buildings and development projects should be leaders in the use of SEP.

Color palette

The developer could provide adjacent land owners access to free items from the developer’s color palette in order to help connect the project to the community. This could be as easy as use of trim paint colors to smooth the transition from this project into the community or be offered a plant or two from the landscape groupings to help blend the project into the surrounding community.

Fact sheet

I don’t question the developer’s right to produce a marketing and promotion document for everyone who may be interested. However, it would be far more helpful for the developer to produce a mandated Fact Sheet for the purpose of informed decision-making on key issues without having to wade through 200 pages of marketing materials to find the answers.

The Fact Sheet would include usage projections, project costs, infrastructure costs, projected revenues and taxes, variance requests and benefits, non-compliance penalties and about ten other important considerations.

The citizens of Scottsdale overwhelmingly voted to save the McDowell Preserve from development. Now, we are faced with insuring the “look and feel” of Old Town and its historical character.

Old Town did not become an arts center and tourist attraction because it had high-rise buildings and apartments. In fact, what makes Old Town unique is exactly the opposite.

Editor’s Note: AJ Germek is a Scottsdale resident.

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