In 1989, the Scottsdale Galleria debuted in downtown. Promoters claimed the retail center would draw more visitors than the Grand Canyon.
Scottsdale City Council went as far as approving a ramp tunnel in the middle of Scottsdale Road. Traffic was obstructed, cutting off Stetson, isolating the canal bank and disrupting Fifth Avenue-area businesses.
Within 18 months the 400,000-square-foot Scottsdale Galleria went belly-up, leaving the bottleneck and economic stagnation.
In 2000, a group of Fifth Avenue owners and businesses pressed City Council to remove the tunnel obstruction and restore access to Fifth Avenue. In 2001, Scottsdale Road got fixed.
By 2004, at Scottsdale Waterfront 800 residences broke ground (north bank) and South Bridge retail and offices followed. The Galleria fiasco morphed from retail to office, without a tunnel.
Today, the mega South Bridge Two threatens nearly 90 Fifth Avenue businesses.
Why? Because promoters want to encroach into city streets for private underground parking.
For up to two years, street parking along Fifth Avenue would be demolished, trees uprooted, utilities realigned, streets closed and detour signs posted on Indian School and Scottsdale Road – altogether devastating existing businesses.
South Bridge Two wants to build six stories higher than setbacks and height limits permit. Exorbitant height rising 160 feet above Fifth Avenue requires more parking. Rather than dig deeper on private land, they seek City Council approval to damage existing businesses.
All the glitzy South Bridge Two presentations omitted that fact. Look closely at site plans and building sections that fail to note encroachments into city streets. South Bridge Two would excavate 25 to 30 feet into the street, much deeper than the Galleria tunnel.
Casefile drawings show that at the canal side, South Bridge Two violates city Code setbacks, crowding canal amenities.
Worse, South Bridge Two eliminates all public parking at the city-owned Rose Garden parking lot.
In 2005, Rose Garden Partners was awarded a development agreement with the City of Scottsdale which required the Unger Group to build 200 public parking spaces. The Unger Group could build 40 luxury condos, commercial leased space and 78 private parking spaces.
Over the next 10 years, the Unger Group requested extensions, proposed office and hotel projects, and defaulted in 2015.
South Bridge Two (Unger Group) has been quietly negotiating for a no-bid, private sale of the city public parking lot. They failed for 14 years to perform, yet they expect the city to sell, without a cost-benefit analysis, or full disclosure.
South Bridge Two eliminates all public parking, yet Mr. Unger suggests that public parking be built in a sub-basement at Rose Garden – likely to cost $48,000 per space. However, a city parking structure on city land, above ground – costs $ 16,000 per space. And the 2019 Bond includes $22 million for “Old Town” parking garages on city land.
Rose Garden parking is ready to build – not to sell.
The case file shows that the city staff repeatedly directed that the applicant remove the Rose Garden from South Bridge Two. The developer brazenly covets the city roadways and the city public parking lot for their benefit.
Will the City Council repeat the same mistake made 30 years ago? Council should tell the applicant to keep their risk on their own property. Do not encroach into city streets and interfere with public parking.
David D. Ortega is a former Scottsdale City Council member.
Editor’s Note: The Progress was unable to substantiate his claim that building a city parking structure on city land costs $16,000 per space. The median parking structure cost for 2019 in the Phoenix area is $19,004 per space, according to national engineering firm WGI. Unger has since proposed including public parking within the Rose Garden site at no cost to the city.