Henninger: Scottsdale’s fate lies in city leaders’ hands

A few days ago, while hiking solo on the Lost Dog Trail in Scottsdale’s mountains preserve, it felt like I was a million miles away from the City of Scottsdale.

Don Henninger

The stunning beauty of the desert, especially this time of year, takes your breath away. The trail was awash in a sea of yellow and purple blossoms, and in this shoulder season of the tourism year, it was enjoyable with minimal human interruptions.

While it seems like you are a million miles away from the city, you’re not. And that’s the real advantage of Scottsdale. The geographic diversity of the city is one of a kind.

It’s a city with stunning natural landscapes that will sustain in perpetuity. And it’s a city with a physical environment that must continue to be updated.

From the highest points along Lost Dog, you can see for miles but you can’t see Old Town. It’s out of sight figuratively and literally. But it’s still an inseparable part of the picture.

The city’s core is its economic heartbeat but its future is not as clear, or perhaps as sustainable without ideas and action. The desert environment is in Mother Nature’s hands. Old Town is in ours.

Old Town has the charm and character that makes the city’s heritage so rich, and now it needs a well-thought-out infusion to evolve into its next era. Old Town needs a face lift. And done the right way, it can preserve the best of what has come before.

We are at a crossroads in the city right now that may not come along again.

There are two projects in the pipeline that could help transform the city and position it for prosperity to come.

Both have been in the works for a long time and are now poised to deliver a boost to the city’s center.

The Museum Square and SouthBridge Canal projects, which are working through various stages of the city approval process, are a mix of residential and commercial uses.

Both incorporate the design and amenities that reflect the city’s heritage and quality it deserves.

Height and density are always legitimate issues for debate, but in Scottsdale the urban setting of Old Town is one location where they are most appropriate. With citizen input, city leaders will need to deal with parking and access issues that already exist there — and those can be resolved once they put their minds to it.

Scottsdale Arts has a visionary and realistic plan to renovate the Civic Center Plaza, and the need for that is visible to anyone who walks through the area.

Arts and culture are a key part of Scottsdale’s DNA and rejuvenation of the plaza will expand those characteristics. Funding is part of the bond package that voters will be asked to approve in November, and it’s a wise investment in Old Town’s future.

From the desert vistas to the north to the urban core to the south, Scottsdale is one city and it thrives when residents from all corners of the city support the reality of One Scottsdale.

Residents have preserved the desert north and it will evolve under the watch of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Mother Nature.

To complete the picture, city leaders now must make the kinds of decisions that will enhance the future of Old Town and the urban south, ensuring the economic health and diversity of the city for generations to come.

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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