By Don Henninger
Once in a while an opportunity occurs where two issues that seem to be on divergent tracts instead find themselves perfectly aligned.
Scottsdale has one such issue right now, a project in its downtown core that respects the city’s rich heritage while providing an investment option that would bolster the city’s economy.
This opportunity comes in the early days of new leadership that makes up the majority of the City Council. The fate of this project will be a good litmus test to see how those four new leaders intend to balance the goals of honoring the city’s past while embracing the kinds of investments that sustain a healthy economic future – something they all vowed to do when they were campaigning last year.
The issue involves a redevelopment project on Indian School Road to the west of Scottsdale Road, home of the Kimsey Building, also known as the Triangle Building. The building, which served as City Hall in the 1960s, was designed by Ralph Haver, who designed 15 projects in the city in the early 1950s, five of which have since been demolished. Those who recognize the value of a Haver design are working hard to make sure this is not No. 6 on that list.
The developer that owns the land has agreed to significant concessions to preserve Haver’s work while reviving that 5-acre corner of the city – which though tired now could become a lively link between Old Town and the Arts District.
PEG Companies has a proposed a multi-use $150 million redevelopment that provides hospitality and housing opportunities downtown, which also will support the merchants there. By preserving the Triangle Building and setting aside the surface area for it, the investor is asking to build up to eight stories high. That’s a reasonable request. It’s the same height as the hotel across the street and a lot shorter than what has been approved for the Museum Square project nearby.
The project’s fate soon will be in the hands of City Council members. It already has been approved unanimously by the Development Review Board and the Historic Preservation Commission and it cleared the Planning Commission on a 5-1 vote.
Two public open houses have been held in addition to individual stakeholder meetings where design changes were made with their input.
This is time for the anti- or slow-growth crowd to do a gut check. The too-tall too-dense mantra falls flat on this project, yet those voices still jell in opposition to a project that is a win-win for the city.
This project fits and satisfies both those who want to preserve the city’s heritage, and those who know that attracting investments in the city is vital to preserving its economic health.
If the council rejects the proposal, it leaves the door open for the next developer to scrape the building and put something less desirable there. It also sends signals that the city’s long-term economic health may not be quite the priority many of them claimed it to be.
Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org