Bars and clubs in downtown Scottsdale could give way to hotels, office space and retail shops, according to redevelopment plans submitted to the city.
The plans give the clearest picture yet of The Scottsdale Collective, a major redevelopment, first reported by the Progress last December, that could significantly reshape the city’s downtown Entertainment District.
The project is the latest in a slew of redevelopment projects proposing to bring new 150-foot buildings to downtown Scottsdale, a phenomenon that has drawn criticism – and one referendum – from locals opposed to increased heights and densities in the area.
The Scottsdale Collective is the latest redevelopment from Shawn and Steven Yari of Stockdale Capital Partners, which owns much of the property in the Entertainment District, including the W Scottsdale hotel and the Galleria Corporate Centre.
The development would include a total of 580,000 square feet of commercial space for retail, restaurant, hotel and office space along with over 512 residential units, according to conceptual development plans
At a pitch to prominent locals last November, Shawn Yari said the project will diversify, not replace, the entertainment district.
“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.”
Overall, the plan calls for redeveloping 6.5 acres of Stockdale’s approximately 20 acres of property in the area and asks to rezone the area to type 3 commercial from a mix of type 2 and type 3 parcels, according to the development plan.
The Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan allows for heights up to 150 feet – or 156 feet inclusive of rooftop mechanical – in type 3 areas if developers meet certain requirements, including providing public benefits.
Current entitled heights in the entertainment district are all over the place, ranging from 34 feet at the southeast corner Scottsdale and Camelback Roads to 90 feet at The Stetson Apartments and 150 feet on the site of the Marquee office building.
Much of what would be redeveloped is tucked into three properties, including the parcel that fronts the Arizona Canal at the southeast corner of Camelback and Scottsdale Roads.
That plan has the parcel being developed as City Center, which would include over 200,000 square feet of commercial space and 146 residential units along with a public art and park space and heights up to 150 feet along Scotts-dale Road.
“You have essentially an elevated park at your signature intersection,” project spokesman Jason Rose said. “I think (it) is really going to have a wow factor and be a point of pride for the community.”
The project would also replace a number of existing clubs in the city’s entertainment district.
The first project “out of the shoot” would be a hotel on what is now the Dakota bar, Rose said.
The conceptual project plans also show hotels between 90 and 135 feet tall – along with space for restaurants, retail and office – going on the sites of The Mint and Maya Day & Nightclub.
When he pitched the project in November, Shawn Yari said he did not anticipate the same type of backlash that resulted in a referendum against Southbridge Two, a redevelopment that sought bring heights up to 150 feet to that area.
“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) under-utilized and there’s an opportunity, take the opportunity.”
Rose said that, unlike other areas downtown, much of the Entertainment District is made up of dated buildings he described as “bland commercialism”.
“That’s why the walking tours were so important,” Rose said. “It was important for people to get on the street and see that this is not 5th Avenue. This is not Main Street. This is not Charmsville by any stretch of the imagination.”
But at least one Scottsdale resident who was a vocal opponent of Southbridge Two also has reservations about the Scottsdale Collective.
“Traffic will be a mess, our views will be blocked, and it will be a construction war zone for many years causing traffic gridlock,” said Emily Austin, who worked on the Southbridge Two referendum. “How will this project benefit the community?”
Austin conceded the area could use redevelopment but said the project is “too tall and too dense.”
Proponents argue the project is exactly what the Entertainment District – and the rest of downtown Scottsdale – needs.
Rose said The Scottsdale Collective would increase walkability between the area and the rest of downtown and also include a significant public art footprint.
In November, Yari said the project would bring activity to an “under-utilized” area.
Stockdale brought in Valerie Vadala Homer, former director of Scottsdale Public Art, to head up its public art efforts, which will include temporary and permanent installations.
The development plan also calls for trees and a variety of shade structures to increase walkability and connectivity with other areas downtown.
Rose said the hope is to expand Scottsdale’s Canal Convergence art festival to the area.
The project could become the latest political football in the 2020 races for mayor and City Council – and not just because of potential backlash against 150-foot heights.
In December 2019, the Progress reported that local business owner Bill Crawford – a former harsh critic of the Yaris and the entertainment district – had joined the project team as a paid liaison to the local business community. The project also brought in local activist Andrea Alley as a liaison to residents.
Crawford has since entered the race for City Council and his campaign received $4,000 from the Yaris as of April 15.
But Crawford, if elected, would not have a say if any part of Scottsdale Covenant comes before the Council after he takes office since the city’s ethics code requires recusal if a City Council member has a financial interest in a project.
“I will follow the Scottsdale ethics guidelines and recuse myself,” Crawford told the Progress.
But Austin said she has concerns that the developers will try to push the project through the City Council this year.
There are several candidates on the ballot – including Betty Janik, Tom Durham, Bob Littlefield and David Ortega – who have been critical of increased heights downtown and actively participated in the Southbridge Two referendum.
If elected, some from that group could potentially swing the Council majority if the project doesn’t get approved this year.
“My fear is that (Shawn) Yari desperately wants to push this through the City Council majority before the election,” Austin said.
Several members of the current council have received campaign contributions from the Yaris or associated entities in the past, including Council members Virginia Korte and Suzanne Klapp, both of whom are running for mayor.
“We already know that the city saved Yari $20 million by not making him go below grade for parking on the (Marquee), which added probably 50 feet or so to the height of the building,” Austin said.
The Marquee office building, planned next to the Galleria, was originally approved in 2016 at 90 feet but Stockdale came back to Council in August 2019 and received approval to increase to 150 feet on a split 4-3 vote.
Rose said Stockdale does not want a repeat of the divisiveness that marked the Marquee debate, so the company did ample community outreach to collect feedback from local businesses and residents and create a project the community could support.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of feedback on the front end because the goal is not a 4-3 vote,” Rose said.
He likened the outreach to what was done with Museum Square, a forthcoming development in the Arts District that overcame opposition centered on heights and parking and eventually received unanimous approval from the City Council in 2019.
“And I think Museum Square and Gentry on the Green are two recent examples of the benefits of that work on the front end rather than working the rosary beads on the back end,” Rose said.