Mailloux: Kierland projects raise questions over direction of development

Wayne Mailloux (Submitted photo)

I write in response to your article in the Scottsdale Independent concerning property development in the Kierland area, which is one of Phoenix’s most popular and vibrant communities.

Dubbed the “Heartbeat of North Phoenix,” this vibrant neighborhood has become known for its cohesive community, five-star resort, locally-owned businesses infused with funky vibes and unique culture, high end retail and responsible development with low density residential buildings.

A recent Kierland area development request proposed high rise towers of 20 stories that would dwarf its neighbors, create looming shadows and introduce an entirely new character more befitting a downtown urban environment than our luxury resort community.

Another proposes to build multiple tall buildings on a current low-rise parcel significantly increasing density, negatively impacting its neighbors and increasing stress on local infrastructure and traffic in the neighborhood.

In addition to our concerns over height, massing, density, lack of pedestrian level open space and the irresponsible increases in traffic circulation, these projects raise several questions about the direction of development as a whole in the Kierland area.

There are a number of challenges inherent in high-density development in a unique setting such as Kierland, including appropriate scale, massing, materials and proportion. When sensitive to its context, new development can help define and reinforce the neighborhood’s unique character — but when they are not these developments, especially the La Maison project — do exactly the opposite!

The rising interest in Kierland area development demands a discussion on the compatibility of new buildings in the area and a call for decision-makers to examine the area as a whole rather than project-by-project without taking context and the long-run outcomes and impact on current residents into consideration.

The La Maison project is but the first. There are a dozen or so other “opportunity sites” available along Scottsdale Road, so it is critical that function and compatibility be considered in regard to our infrastructure, traffic and open space, with a major emphasis on maintaining the original vision of the Kierland area and adopting architectural principles that will ensure proper relationships between buildings on adjacent sites to preserve the character of the neighborhood.

The Kierland Community Alliance have provided comments on projects in the Kierland area that raise these questions about scale, massing and contextual design in the area. Our hope is this will start the needed discussions and eventually invite developers and stakeholders into the area with thoughtful and appropriate projects.

Some comments made in your recent article by Scottsdale officials and politicians casually refer in general terms to, “the need for development” and the need for “work, play, live areas in the Kierland community,” and shrug off the concerns of local residents.

That kind of off-the-cuff generalization is exactly what can lead to the destruction of a neighborhood’s character and quality of life for current residents. Let us hope that it is not taken literally by the authorities charged with approving re-zoning proposals.

Let us hope these decisions will be made with consideration for their impact on the neighbors and residents already in place. A commitment to these core values is essential to our community which is under threat from large corporate entities only looking for a piece of the Kierland pie, without a true understanding of what actually makes our area so desirable or a commitment to preserving it.

Editor’s Note: Wayne Mailloux is a member of the Scottsdale-Phoenix Kierland community, and serves on an HOA board there.

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