A third major redevelopment could be coming to downtown Scottsdale, this time in the entertainment district.
The Yari brothers – who own the W Hotel, Galleria Corporate Centre and about 26 acres in the entertainment district – have unveiled an art-centric vision for the area including office, residential and retail.
The proposed project, dubbed the Scottsdale Collective, is the Los Angeles-based developers’ latest attempt to redevelop the entertainment district and resembles a project they pitched in 2007 that did not pan out.
Shawn Yari, who developed much of the entertainment district with brother Steven under the Triyar Companies and Stockdale Capital Partners banners, said his latest pitch reflects a needed maturation of the entertainment district to include uses beyond bars and clubs.
Yari said he still supports the bars and clubs that made the district successful but wants to diversify the area.
“This isn’t a blank canvas. This is a successful entertainment area in downtown Scottsdale,” Yari said. “The opportunity is piece by piece, time to time, there’ll be a piece of that canvas available for me to develop.”
Yari presented an early version of the plan to a gathering of some of the city’s prominent residents on Nov. 21 at the Galleria Corporate Centre.
Attendees at the meeting included members of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale, or COGS and Scottsdale Arts CEO Gerd Wuestemann.
Though short on specifics, the presentation included an overall vision for the entertainment district in the area east of Scottsdale Road between Camelback Road and 6th Avenue.
The plan includes increased height and density – hot-button issues as more developers attempt to take advantage of rules passed by the City Council in 2018 allowing for heights up to 150 feet in some areas of downtown.
Yari’s own Marquee office project saw significant opposition for that very reason and narrowly passed earlier this year.
Architect George Melara with Nelsen Partners said approximately 24 percent of the Yaris’ property could be used for increased heights and density.
In addition to new development, Yari said art will be a major component to give character to the neighborhood and draw in visitors.
He brought in a former director of Scottsdale Public Art to consult on the project.
Yari said the project’s size will result in substantial funds to use towards the art project.
That art could include wayfinding projects as well as iconic tourist attractions similar to the Love sculpture in downtown Scottsdale, the project team said.
The project is inspired by city events like Canal Convergence and Scottsdazzle, Yari said.
“The main component is the art component,” resident Tom Thompson said. “That is going to make it.”
Total build-out could take 10 to 15 years, Yari said. He did not provide a specific timeline but said it would likely take a parcel-by-parcel approach as leases expire and open up properties for redevelopment.
COGS Executive Director Sonnie Kirtley supported some of the proposed changes but took issue with the timeline.
“Any physical improvements to the Entertainment District will be welcomed. The public art proposals throughout the area are exciting and highly supported,” Kirtley said. “Unfortunately, it will take a number of years when renovated parcel by parcel.”
The plan would include new shaded pedestrian pathways to connect the entertainment district with other sections of downtown Scottsdale, said Melara.
Nelsen Partners architects Melara and Jeff Brandt previously worked on Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons.
It could also include more affordable multifamily residential for young professionals with smaller living spaces and shared amenities.
Yari stopped short of calling the product “workforce housing” – as his architect initially characterized it – but said it would be more affordable than much of the existing housing downtown.
Yari also stressed much of the project was still conceptual because he wants residents’ feedback to help shape the project.
“I want the input,” Yari said. “I want to see where the hot buttons are, what means things to people, and then kind of take a first shot at it and meet with them again.”
Thompson, one of the residents at the meeting, liked that approach, stating, “The developer is certainly doing the right thing by involving the community and getting their ideas instead of coming up with his own.”
Only time will tell how the city receives the project.
Similarly ambitious redevelopments downtown, like Museum Square and the proposed Southbridge Two project, garnered some backlash over a range of issues.
Janet Wilson, a downtown property owner who co-chairs the new Committee for the Preservation of Old Town Scottsdale political action committee, said height is a primary concern for her group in the run-up to the forthcoming vote on Southbridge, which will have 150-foot heights across Scottsdale Road from Yari’s properties.
“We’re not against development, but we want development that keeps our character and our history,” Wilson said. “If you wipe that history away from a city, you have nothing. You’ve just got tall buildings and no part of your town.”
Wilson and her group have not commented on Yari’s proposal.
Yari said he supported protecting some areas, like Scottsdale’s downtown galleries, from height and density but that the entertainment district is different.
“I don’t think you go in there into the quaint areas where the art galleries are and knock them down to build high rises. That’s insanity,” Yari said. “But if (an area is) underutilized and there’s an opportunity, take the opportunity.”
Yari pitched his project as a way to attract users to the currently “under utilized” area.
“The process of approving a significant project in Scottsdale ranges from cumbersome to perverted, depending upon the level of public outcry over each new ‘Big Thing’,” said resident Mike Norton, who attended the meeting.
Still, Norton said, he could not imagine that many residents will be opposed to Yari’s plan to “to tear down some dilapidated old buildings” in the entertainment district, which does not have the same historic cache as other areas downtown.
Norton said Yari is more likely to face pushback due to the “headwinds” from opposition to Marquee and parking and traffic concerns.
Yari said the effect of northern Scottsdale shopping malls - which he says drew consumers away from downtown – along with new developments like the forthcoming Ritz-Carlton-anchored Palmeraie on the border between Scottsdale and Paradise Valley – are driving factors in the redevelopment.
“You know the Palmeraie is happening up there, right?” Yari said. “That’s going to be a vacuum, just like Quarter and Kierland. I mean, you can’t just let the best tenants and the best residents and all this and move up. You gotta protect your downtown.”
So far, Yari has brought at least two former critics on board with the project. Resident Andrea Alley and longtime downtown business owner Bill Crawford are both part of the project team and spearheading outreach.
Alley, who previously helped implement resident-supported changes to the Papago Plaza redevelopment, strongly opposed the Yari’s Marquee, characterizing its long, boxy structure as a “cruise ship.”
In June, Alley posted on the South Scottsdale Project Facebook page “This strikes me as nothing more than a bottom-line development is that this giant, solid glass wall, which will be what greets visitors from the north, lacks embarrassing amounts of imagination and vision for what it could bring to our world-class city.”
Alley said Yari approached her about coming on board shortly after the Marquee Council vote and she was surprised because “I really a thorn in your side.”
“That’s the whole point,” Yari said. “You have to have the feel and the vision of the community.”
Another strange bedfellow is Bill Crawford, who is in charge of the project’s outreach with the business community.
Crawford years ago waged a scorched-earth campaign against Yari and the entertainment district that resulted in a messy defamation suit filed by Yari in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Things are different today.
“So once upon a time, Shawn and I both vigorously fought to defend our interests and along that conversation, we found out that our interest was exactly the same thing: downtown Scottsdale,” Crawford said.
The Scottsdale Collective is the latest in a slew of projects to propose redeveloping portions of downtown.
Museum Square in the Arts District has already garnered City Council approval while Southbridge Two is still working its way through the city.
Asked whether the city is ready for yet another controversial redevelopment, Yari said “I don’t think it’s controversial, to be honest.”
Yari said he thinks the project will actually gain supporters who would like to see different uses in the entertainment district.
The entertainment district has been criticized by locals over the years – including Crawford – for contributing to an increase in noise, crime and public intoxication in the area.
Yari acknowledged that problems arose in the area with problems of noise and crime, but said steps were taken in 2012 to get rid of bad operators.