The City of Scottsdale’s plans to improve a section of Main Street that runs through the Arts District downtown have drawn the ire of some local property owners who think that increasing parking in the area should be the city’s number one priority.
The city hosted an open house with the community at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West recently to share conceptual plans for the stretch of Main Street between 69th Street and Scottsdale Road.
The plans, designed by civil engineering and landscape architecture firm Gavan & Barker Inc., were informed by a community meeting held earlier this year in which stakeholders shared their opinions on what the improvement project should look like.
City representative Erin Walsh stressed that the plans are conceptual at this point and are still subject to change based on stakeholder and city feedback.
The project would improve walking conditions along Main Street by reworking vehicle lanes and parking to make room for wider sidewalks in line with the City’s design standards.
It would also include a number of other additions, such as shade trees, seating areas and some decorative pavement.
And it would bring sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, architect John Barker said.
The response from property owners was clear: they want more parking instead of wider sidewalks.
The current plans presented by the city would either retain the current number of parking spaces in the area or reduce them by as much as 25 percent.
French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler and president of the Scottsdale Gallery Association, said that without more parking, there is not a need for wider sidewalks.
“The less parking we have, the less people we have,” he said.
Another attendee said the area needs more parking because the new Canopy by Hilton hotel planned for the area does not fully park itself, which will only exacerbate existing parking issues in the area.
That hotel project received approval from the City Council over the summer that reduced its parking requirements by 27 percent.
Walsh said that the city has not made any final decisions on how the project will look, and feedback from the meeting will be taken into consideration before plans go before the Development Review Board.
Another local business owner said the city should scrap the Main Street improvements altogether – other than possible sidewalk and ADA improvements – and direct its resources towards more parking downtown.
Walsh said that the city needs to improve sidewalks in the area and bring them into ADA compliance and that it attempts to make all improvements at the same time to avoid multiple construction projects and to minimize the impact on local businesses.
He also assured those at the meeting that the city was not trying to drastically change the look and feel of the Arts District or any of downtown’s other unique neighborhoods and that the city was just trying to create a “neutral plan to underlie that (unique character).”
That neutral plan will include shade trees, muted desert colors and an array of water-resistant desert plants, Barker said.
Barker said the improvements would include benches and chairs located throughout the district, new festoon lighting overhead and decorative pavement located at street corners, though most pavement would remain gray concrete.
Additionally, the project would include street paving, new valley gutters to replace existing drainage systems and new shade trees.
The bulk of the project would take place on city-owned land, though there are some proposed sidewalk improvements that cross over onto private property.
Barker said he could work around these areas if specific property owners do not wish to participate in the project.
From 69th Street to Goldwater Boulevard, the project would reduce traffic lanes to 11 feet wide in each direction and increase sidewalk sizes to 8 feet wide.
Parking would increase in this section of Main Street by four spaces under the current plans.
The city is still seeking community feedback for how it should alter the section of Main Street between Goldwater and Scottsdale Road.
Barker presented two plans to community for how this section of the new project could look.
The first included 12-foot vehicle travel lanes in each direction with pull-in parking spaces on one side of the road and parallel parking spaces on the other side. The use of parallel parking spaces versus pull-in parking will allow the city to reserve more space for sidewalk expansion.
Under this version, referred to as Option A, the sidewalks in this section of Main Street would be nine feet wide.
The second concept, or Option B, would require the city to approve several exceptions because some of the road and sidewalk widths do not meet existing city regulations, Walsh said.
That version of this portion of the project would include 11-foot travel lanes in each direction.
It would also include angled pull-in parking on both sides of the street.
“The concern here is we are confined to six-foot sidewalks,” Barker said.
The city’s design guidelines call for sidewalks between 8 and 10 feet in major collector streets and areas with high pedestrian activity.
Under Option A, Barker estimated the area would lose 34 parking spaces, bringing it down to 99 spaces total.
Under Option B, he estimated the number of parking spots would remain the same as it is today.
Schedule and Cost
Walsh said the city could not pinpoint an exact timeline for the project yet because it is still going through the public comment process.
She said there will be at least one more public meeting where the city will present stakeholders with the plans it has decided to go with. This will take place before the project is presented to the Development Review Board.
That DRB meeting will likely take place early next year.
The city initially planned to begin the project in May 2019 and work throughout the summer to avoid construction during the busy season.
City Project Manager Chris Perkins said that the city may miss the May deadline to begin “because we want to make sure the public comment process is done right.”
If the city misses that deadline, it will delay the start of the project until May 2020.
Walsh and Perkins assured the attendees at the meeting that there was no scenario in which construction would take place outside of the summer months.
The city also does not have a definitive cost for the entire scope of the project because it is still in the design process.
There is currently about $2 million in the capital improvements budget allocated to Main Street improvements, Perkins said.
That will cover the design of the project and could potentially cover a first phase of construction as well, Walsh said.