Henninger: Old Town development could be keystone to southern resurgence

Old Town Scottsdale is on the verge of landing two exciting developments that may shape its future and its health for years to come.

Don Henninger

Macdonald Development Co. out of Canada has plans to build a 15-story hotel and four residential buildings as well as a community park in a project called Museum Square. It would replace an abandoned transit station and parking lot covering about 7 acres.

The Scottsdale Gallery Association and the Museum of the West both support it. They see it as a boost to the district’s business and overall exposure — especially the museum as it may open up opportunities for its expansion. The open space incorporated into the plan could host events and gatherings, giving new visitors exposure to this world-class facility.

Scottsdale City Council already voted — unanimously — to approve the sale of the land to Macdonald. The Planning Commission is the next step. If it makes it through the approval processes, work could start as early as next summer.

The other project is the culmination of a vision that Fred Unger had at SouthBridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Carter Unger, Fred’s son, took over as head of SpringCreek Development when Fred died in January, and he now is overseeing the plan.

The project, which runs from Goldwater Boulevard to Scottsdale Road along the canal and to the south, is nearing ready for public review and ultimately city council action. It is a mixed-used plan with retail, residential, restaurants and office space. Carter described it as a project that is intended to breathe new life into Old Town while melding with the culture and history of the area.

These two separate developments have been under the planning stages for a while and are coming to light right about the same time. Each is a good addition for Old Town. Combined, they present a chance to give the city core a boost that could last for generations.

Cities all around the Valley are evolving and growing in positive ways, challenging Scottsdale to keep up or lose out. Look what’s going on in downtown Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe Town Lake, Phoenix and Mesa.

So what’s not to like about these projects? Naysayers who reject any notion of height and density will surely make their objections known. Parking and traffic issues will need to be worked out. But Old Town Scottsdale is exactly the right place for projects like these … where height already exists and density, as in people, is still needed to bring energy and vibrancy to life in the city.

As both projects wind through the approval process and the required scrutiny, our hope is that city leaders along the way will seize the opportunity to give Old Town, the soul of the city, a strong heart beat for many years to come.

Editor’s note: Mr. Henninger is founder and executive director of SCOTT, the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow. Reach him at donh@scottsdale.com.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Henninger is executive director of the Scottsdale Coalition of Today & Tomorrow and can be reached at Donh@scottsdale.com. He also serves on the Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA Board of Directors

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