A new downtown Scottsdale redevelopment proposal would preserve – not replace – the historic Triangle Building, which once served as Scottsdale’s City Hall.
The preservation would come as a trade off of sorts as the Kimsey Triangle project, if approved by City Council, would also significantly increase height and density near Indian School Road and Marshall Way.
The $150-million development includes the Triangle Building, designed by famed architect Ralph Haver, and adjacent properties on the north side of Indian School Road in between Marshall Way and Scottsdale Road.
It would replace the two-story Howard Johnson motel and The Venue, a four-story event center, with a new seven-story hotel and a seven-story residential building.
Utah-based developer PEG Development is seeking a historic preservation designation from the city for the Triangle Building, also known as the Kimsey Building is one of the remaining examples of Haver’s mid-century-modern style still preserved in Scottsdale.
The developer is working with Ryden Architects to develop a Historic Preservation Plan to ensure any renovations preserve its historic character.
The building was originally constructed in 1961 on land owned by the Kimsey family of Indiana, who originally came to Scottsdale in 1907.
The family helped bring the first bank, electric company and gas station to Scottsdale, said Doug Sydnor, the project architect and a longtime Scottsdale resident and founding chair of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
William Kimsey originally built three houses and citrus orchards on five acres of land in the area. Kimsey went on to become president of the Salt River Valley Water Users Association and his son Mort Kimsey served on Scottsdale’s first town council and became the town’s second mayor in 1958.
After the Triangle Building was complete, the city leased space there for a city hall from 1963 until the current City Hall was completed in 1968.
The Kimsey Building had been slated for demolition, but PEG Development decided to preserve it after meeting with residents, said John Berry, the zoning attorney representing the developer.
Sydnor said the developer recognized the historical significance of the building and the Kimsey family’s legacy in Scottsdale.
Alison King, an assistant professor at Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production, said the project “could serve as a model for how to do preservation right.”
King, founder of the mid-century-modern-focused website Modern Phoenix and a Haver biographer, said, “Haver’s award-winning masterworks like the First Federal Savings and Loan on the site of (Scottsdale Fashion Square) and the Cine Capri theater have been ravaged by lack of foresight into their future. So, we have an opportunity to amend that here with the re-examination of the Kimsey property.”
Sydnor said his team found Haver was responsible for approximately 15 projects in Scottsdale, though five have since been demolished.
The Historic Preservation Commission on Feb. 4 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the project to the Planning Commission and City Council.
Commissioner Christie Lee Kinchen, who has fought to save similar structures in the past, praised the project as an example of how the city can preserve historic architecture while also allowing for new development, stating, “We’re a mid-century city, but we can still grow and we can still do new things.”
Preservation of the Triangle Building is only one facet of the Kimsey project.
On Feb. 10, the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the developer’s zoning change request for a mix of uses and heights of up to 90 feet on the site.
The developer plans to build two 90-foot buildings to the north and west of the Kimsey building: a 168-room hotel and 230-unit luxury multifamily property with underground parking.
The project will include 490 parking spaces.
The request includes the use development bonuses that allow the developer to exceed existing height and density limits by making financial contributions to downtown Scottsdale improvements.
The developer is requesting building heights up to 90 feet – 54 feet higher than allowed under existing zoning and 30 feet more than what is allowed under the requested zoning.
The project’s 230-unit residential building also exceeds the 193 units allowed under density limits without bonuses. Those bonuses would cost PEG a contribution of $875,678.
Berry said the additional heights and density are “a direct result” of the preservation of the Triangle Building.
He said the additional height will allow the developer to make up for units lost when it decided not to redevelop the Kimsey site.
“Yes, we are preserving a landmark, but we are preserving an ugly building,” said Commissioner George Ertel, who supported the project on a belief that it could increase activity and visitor traffic to downtown Scottsdale.
The only no vote came from Commissioner Barry Graham, who expressed concerns about how the increase in density would impact a critical downtown corridor along Indian School Road. Graham questioned how the increase in occupancy on the site would impact traffic at the busy intersection of Indian School and Scottsdale roads to the east.
Kiran Guntupalli, the city’s principal traffic engineer, said the intersection currently has a D grade – which indicates heavy use but is considered acceptable in urban areas – but would likely get worse with an increase in activity on the Kimsey site.
A report by city staff concluded that traffic patterns in the area will remain largely the same with some increase on Indian School Road and Third Avenue, especially during the morning rush hour.
Graham proposed delaying the Planning Commission vote to give the city and development team more time to address potential issues, but that motion found no support.
Sydnor said the overall project will also include extensive landscaping and pedestrian improvements, including shaded pedestrian spaces along 3rd Avenue and Indian School Road
No date has been set for a City Council hearing. PEG hopes to begin the entitlement process in the fall and start construction in spring 2022.