Sunday, May 22, 2011

Downtown Scottsdale set for 'metamorphosis'

For merchants in downtown Scottsdale, the days of sidewalks crowded with visitors eager to spend money have come and gone, and the long and slow summer season is here.

But what if the business traffic in the area never slowed down?

What if there were more people living in downtown Scottsdale patronizing nearby businesses all year?

During the next several years, a surge in multifamily construction could bring nearly 2,000 new residential units to the downtown area. And if all of the units are filled, thousands of new residents could call the area home.

Downtown businesswoman Ace Bailey looks forward to the boost in the area's population. She is president of Ultimate Art & Cultural Tours and a downtown resident.

"When you have people living downtown and they can walk, then you've got a demographic who will start going to these local businesses, going to the restaurants, doing their shopping downtown and helping support what makes Scottsdale special, and that is the local businesses," she said.

South Scottsdale's residential population, which includes downtown, is expected to steadily increase through 2030, according to an Applied Economics report prepared for the city's General Plan update.

However, the increase is expected to be less than 10,000 as opposed to nearly 43,000 citywide, because the area is landlocked and many of the residential projects will be redevelopment.

"That's why we are looking at a downtown area that is going to go through some kind of metamorphosis," said Kim Hanna, the city's economic vitality marketing and research specialist.

The latest proposal for multifamily housing in the downtown area is Bristol Stadium Lofts, a two-building apartment complex with 162 units north of the northwestern corner of Miller and Osborn roads. It would replace four vacant buildings on the site.

The proposal seeks additional height and density under the city's Downtown Infill Incentive District.

John Lupypciw, president of the Continental Group, is listed as the applicant and would not comment on the proposal.

The project narrative says the complex would be "marketed to people who currently or will be working in Old Town Scottsdale."

Construction boom ahead

Later this summer, the Orchidtree apartment complex on the southeastern corner of Camelback Road and 68th Street will be demolished to make way for Optima Sonoran Village, a five-building condominium complex with 493 residential units. Orchidtree has been vacant for more than three years.

And in late summer or early fall 2012, Gray Development Group should begin construction on Blue Sky, a three-building apartment complex northeast of Scottsdale and Camelback roads. It will include 749 units.

The two-year construction job will employ at least 1,800 workers and will cost $170 million, said Brian Kearney, Gray's chief operating officer.

"Once it's built, you've got a built-in customer base for downtown businesses," he said. "Roughly 1,100 people will be living there day in and day out, all seasons, all year, that are going to need to eat, go to entertainment places, get their dry cleaning done and buy clothes, groceries and all the things that people need to do."

Blue Sky will open in stages, with the first building opening in 16 months from the start of construction and completion in another eight months, Kearney said.

Numerous other multifamily projects will follow, including less than 200 condominiums in the final phases of the Scottsdale Waterfront, 160 condominiums in Phase 2 of Safari Drive, next to the Blue Sky site, and more than 100 condominiums at the Solis Scottsdale Resort and Residences, along the east side of the Arizona Canal.

According to the Applied Economics report, the population per household in southern Scottsdale is 2.07, less than in the central and northern parts of the city. That ratio should remain the same through 2030.

"It's younger residents that might not have families yet, and also the Baby Boomer generation is tending toward trading off all that maintenance (of a single-family home) and going with more of an urban setting," Hanna said.

Some happy, others not

Rebecca Sether, an artist and real-estate investor, owns and lives in the Dwell apartment complex on 69th Street just a few blocks from the Hotel Valley Ho. She enjoys living downtown because everything is accessible without driving.

"Buying this building brought me here, and I love the activity, the arts and the restaurants and that I could get on my bike and go anywhere and there's always music somewhere," she said. "I was in Seattle and then I moved to central Phoenix, and everything was always so spread out."

Sether looks forward to the new projects bringing more residents to the downtown area.

"I think more people in condominiums and apartments is not a bad thing," she said. "We've got so many venues that need to be (patronized), and I don't like seeing restaurants and other businesses close."

Sonia Sorensen, one of Sether's tenants, is less enthusiastic about the growth. She would like to see more open space rather than more apartments or condominiums.

"I think with more developing here . . . it's just going to get a little crazier, a little more congested, more cars, and we don't need it," she said.

Stephanie Keating, a resident of the 4020 Lofts at Scottsdale Road and First Avenue, said the area is great for young professionals.

"But when my fiancé and I settle down and start a family, we don't want to be around here," she said.

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic May. 17, 2011 12:57 PM

Downtown Scottsdale set for 'metamorphosis'

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