The Museum Square development

The mammoth Museum Square development would get additional parking spaces under a plan currently being developed.

The City of Scottsdale and the developer have come to an agreement in principal to add over 300 parking spaces to the proposed Museum Square development, potentially removing a major source of criticism that has plagued the project.

Local property owner Bob Pejman, owner of Pejman Gallery in the Arts District, has long criticized Museum Square, arguing that the hotel, residential and restaurant will cannibalize existing public parking utilized by galleries like his.

Pejman said the city and developer MacDonald Development agreed to add more parking at a recent meeting he attended with French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler.

According to figures shared with the Progress, the city agreed to partner with the developer to create an additional underground parking level with 150-166 free spaces open to the public 24/7. 

The information also indicated that surrounding streets could be reconfigured to add 83 new street parking spaces; the lot at Stagebrush Theater would be restriped to add approximately 90 spaces.

The developer also agreed to increase the number of spaces for its residential buildings from 470 to 536 — a 66-space increase — according to Pejman.

Jason Rose, spokesperson for the developer, confirmed that Pejman’s numbers were accurate.

“Several of those items are innovative solutions that were found by the developer as a result of being challenged by the merchants, and we’re very happy with that,” Rose said. “The other is public parking devoted solely to public parking.”

Rose said the city would partner with the developer to create a level of underground parking similar to the public parking spaces located on the first level of the underground garage at the nearby Southrbridge development.

Any agreement by the city to pay for those 150 or so public parking spaces would have to be approved by the city council.

Rose said the parking deal would be included in an amendment to final purchase and sale agreement between the city and MacDonald Development for the Museum Square land.

Rose said he believed proceeds from that $28 million sale could be used to pay for the parking.

Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell confirmed that the city council will consider partnering with the developer “for construction of 151-168 below-grade public parking spaces under the proposed hotel” but did not disclose if or how the city would pay for them.

“The details of that agreement are still under negotiation at this time,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell said details of the proposed parking agreement will be included in the information provided Scottsdale Planning Commission when it considers the project on Wednesday, Sept. 11, and would then go before the city council in October.

Pejman supported the move by the developer and city, assuming it is adopted by the council.

“It’s wise for the city to do all of this just to at least relieve the area from overflow for the next few years,” Pejman said. “My prediction is that you’re going to get a lot more dense development built here.

Still, both Pejman and Thompson said they are skeptical that the parking additions will go through until they see it in writing in the contract.

“We were assured by both the city manager and the attorney for the developer that this is all gonna get done,” Thompson said. “But until it’s done, we’re still very concerned that it could be that they don’t do it, even though they said that they (would).” 

Thompson also said he is still concerned that even with the new additional parking, Museum Square and other future development in the area will eat into public parking used by the galleries.

“I’m feeling a whole lot better about it that they were listening to us, and they are taking the parking situation seriously (but) it’s still gonna be up in the air as to what it does once it’s all built,” Thompson said.

Even with the parking issue potentially resolved, Museum Square still has other complications that are sure to be brought up at the Wednesday Planning Commission meeting.

One includes how the developer and city are dealing with a height restriction on the land in question held by a neighboring property that could stand in the way of Museum Square’s buildings that reach up to 150 feet.

The Museum Square site neighbors the Gateway at Main Street Plaza condominiums, which holds a 60-foot height restriction on some adjacent parcels.

The 15-year-old height restriction is a vestige of a now-defunct development agreement the city had in place with Plaza developer Arruth Associates. 

Though the agreement is no longer in place, the restriction remains, according to documents on file with the Maricopa County Recorder.

The city had tried to remove the restriction by tucking it into a $2.25-million condo purchase from Madeleine Ferris, who owned Arruth Associates with her late husband.

The purchase was ostensibly to find a new home for Museum of the West offices displaced by construction — but it would have also resulted in the removal of the height restriction.

Based on the condo’s valuation, the city would have paid around $800,000 to remove the height restriction. 

The Progress confirmed at the time that Ferris was the seller in the deal, which had the blessing of Gateway at Main Street Plaza’s HOA board.

However, city staff pulled the deal just hours before the city council meeting on July 2 following criticism from residents about why the city would pay to remove the restriction for a developer’s benefit.

Some owners at the Gateway condos also questioned whether or not the board had the right to remove the restriction without their approval.

At the time, it was unclear who actually had the authority to remove the restriction — the board, Ferris or the Gateway at Main Street Plaza owners as a whole.

Time has not brought clarity to that situation and it is still unclear how the city and developer are dealing with the issue.

In response to questions about the state of the restriction, Rose, the developer’s spokesman, only said that “We are working through all issues to ensure Museum Square is the excellent and important addition to the area that we and many believe it can and will be.”

Stockwell, the assistant city manager, was similarly vague.

“The parties continue to work on resolving this issue and are hopeful to have resolved by the Oct. 15 city council meeting date,” Stockwell said.