In what has become an increasingly rare occurrence, the Scottsdale City Council unanimously on something.
It approved a massive new development project along the Indian Bend Wash east of downtown Scottsdale.
Called Gentry on the Green, the 41.5-acre development along Camelback Road near Hayden would replace aging apartment complexes with a mixed-use development featuring high-end apartments and retail space along with bike and pedestrian-focused public open space.
Gentry on the Green, named after the late Scottsdale Councilwoman Billie Axline Gentry, will feature the Walton Bicycle Pavilion where the development meets the wash. It is named after former Councilman Bill Walton.
Both Gentry and Walton are credited with advocating for the creation of the Indian Bend Wash greenbelt decades ago when the Army Corps of Engineers planned to build something similar to the concrete Los Angeles River.
The council voted 7-0 to approve a major general plan amendment and zoning change - paving the way for the development.
The project required a major general plan amendment because it proposed a change in the existing land-use category and exceed 10 acres, said Adam Yaron, a project coordination liaison for the city.
The City’s 2001 General Plan states a major amendment is required if a site is changing from an urban neighborhood designation to a commercial, office or mixed-use and also requires a major amendment for changes in land use on sites in downtown Scottsdale 10-acres or larger.
The city council approved changing the zoning on the properties in question, which currently include the Visconti, Glen at Old Town and Cortesian apartments, from multifamily to mixed-use, which will allow for the inclusion of retail and commercial space in the new development.
Overall, plans for Gentry on the Green include up to 1,864 apartment units – around 1,200 of which will be included in the first phase – and 156,000 square feet of commercial space.
The first phase of the project will also include 36 percent open space, much of which will be open to the public.
Berry said a hired property management company will maintain the public open space on the development site and will also provide landscaping services on a portion of city land in the wash along the length of the development at no cost to the city.
Including the bike pavilion potentially housing bike-related vendors and a paseo running down the center of the property connecting the west end with the wash.
The project could also include a splash pad or water feature, outdoor gathering spaces, coffee shop and retail.
The developer plans to use the project to activate the adjacent section of the greenbelt and take advantage of the city’s plans to become a hub for bicycle tourism, said Jason Rose, a spokesperson for the project.
“This seeks to change that and capitalize on existing infrastructure and create a whole new category of bicycle tourism in addition to being a kind of the first bike-centric community we’re aware of in the Valley,” Rose said.
The project falls in line with a city goal to generate more bicycle-related tourism.
Scottsdale was just named a gold-level bike city by the League of American Bicyclists.
The first phase of the project will cover over 26 acres of the current Visconti and Glen sites and could take up to 10 years to complete, said John Berry, zoning attorney for developer ColRich.
Despite the unanimous support from the council, the project was not without its critics – including residents at the current apartment complexes could eventually be displaced, including two who addressed the council.
Tracey Lendyok has lived at Visconti for 17 years and said she has concerns about where she will go when the property is knocked down.
Though the Visconti is 40 years old, Lendyok and others pushed back at arguments by supporters the property is aging and in need of replacement.
“It’s not an eyesore or a disgusting place it’s people’s homes,” Lendyok said.
Berry said the developer took an “unprecedented plan” to offer relocation help to existing residents.
The plan includes offering comparable units in unaffected areas of the Visconti and Cortesian properties as development advances and offers financial moving assistance to other ColRich-owned properties for residents with a demonstrated need.
The plan also includes quarterly updates and at least one year notice prior to the start of construction, Berry said.
Still, others expressed concerns Visconti and Cortesian are two of the few remaining affordable housing options in the area.
Scottsdale resident Kim Hausser filled out a comment card at a community meeting on the project, stating “Nice – But provide affordable housing equivalent to what you’re taking away.”
According to a city council memo, the average rents at Visconti and Glen are between $1,206 and $1,338 per month.
Planned rents for the Gentry on the Green are between $1,500 and $1,800 for a one-bedroom unit, Berry said.
Berry said ColRich could provide assistance to help individuals move to other ColRich properties in Scottsdale, including Chazal and Scottsdale Gateway, which have rents comparable to the existing Visconti and Glen at Old Town communities.
The project also had a significant amount of support, namely from local businesses and bike enthusiasts who said the project will attract more users to the greenbelt and upgrade aging properties.
Resident Jason Alexander said he is an avid bike rider and the stretch of the greenbelt near the property is devoid of amenities for several miles in both directions.
“You’re going to have this retail element bringing activity and interest to the greenbelt,” Alexander said.
Christal Wehby, owner of Bike Emporium in Scottsdale, rents out bikes and said the project would be an attraction for visitors.
“I’m just really impressed a private entity is willing to forego building more apartment buildings in lieu of a public bike pavilion,” Wehby said.