It took two years of negotiations between city leaders and Scottsdale residents, but a four-story apartment complex and retail center will replace Lucky Plaza businesses near the intersection of Osborn and Hayden roads by the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt.
The Scottsdale City Council voted 5-2 to approve the Greenbelt 88 project on Tuesday after leaders requested more adjustments to the proposal from the developer, Todd Silver. The two dissenting votes came from Mayor David Ortega and Councilmember Kathy Littlefield.
This is the first development case the council has heard in 2022, a year that won’t be short of discussions about growth and density.
Aside from three development proposals expected to go before the council by May, the city’s elected leaders will resume discussions that began last year about development guidelines in Old Town. A discussion about the impacts of development citywide also is slated for April 26.
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2 years worth of tweaks to Greenbelt 88
Councilmember Betty Janik introduced last-minute changes to the Greenbelt 88 project on Tuesday before giving her approval. The tweaks included reducing the number of apartment units from 238 to 228 and the fourth-floor area by 30% along the frontage of Hayden and Osborn roads.
The proposal before the council on Tuesday already was less dense, less tall and with less retail space than the developer first proposed about two years ago. He had initially sought 300 apartment units, a building height of 48 feet and 25,000 square feet of retail space. By Tuesday, he’d brought the height down to 45 feet and upped the retail space to 29,000 square feet.
Greenbelt 88, a 228-unit apartment complex with a retail center next to it, was approved 5-2 by the Scottsdale City Council on Feb. 8, 2022.
The project was tweaked after facing opposition from neighbors, including architect Jeff Brand, who ended up joining the development team.
Nearly 20 people spoke in support of the development on Tuesday, and four were opposed.
The approved plans call for an apartment complex with studios and one- and two-bedroom units, retail space, private and public courtyards and a pedestrian paseo along the Indian Bend Wash frontage.
The developer also will build a pedestrian connection from Hayden and Osborn roads, which will allow access to the public courtyard.
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Housing shortage and more proposed apartment complexes
Many of the residents at Tuesday’s meeting spoke about the need for apartments in light of the Valley’s housing shortage.
“It has been a challenge for young professionals to fund safe and desirable places to live. The idea of having a new rental community that makes a good use of the current space is really appealing to me,” said Angie Underwood, who works as a nurse in Scottsdale. “I want to live and work in a community where I can take advantage of neighboring business offerings.”
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Those who opposed the project recognized the need for more housing, but said the thousands of units approved or already under development will be enough to mitigate the problem.
“I love this project, but it’s not an overall community benefit. You’ve reduced the density. It’s still a four-story building … That would be the first four-story building on the Greenbelt. To me, that’s not a precedent we want to set,” south Scottsdale resident Jan Vuicich said.
The Greenbelt 88 plan includes a public plaza and access to the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt.
Vuicich said the area is already feeling a strain on infrastructure, including stocked grocery stores that can’t keep pace with the population.
The housing debate also surfaced in relation to another project called The Miller, a six-story apartment building with 148 units in Old Town that the council approved in October. The complex will offer eight workforce units to firefighters, teachers, and police officers at a discount.
Another apartment project, Ironwood 92, which the council is slated to discuss later this month, proposes to offer rent discounts to teachers, firefighters, police officers and workers within a mile of the site.
The project would replace a vacant office building on Shea Boulevard east of 92nd Street and be connected to an existing commercial center with restaurants, a massage spa, office spaces and a gym. Two of Scottsdale’s largest employers, HonorHealth and CVS Health, surround the site and support the project.
The developer of the project, Jim Riggs, has argued the Shea Corridor area needs new apartment units to support Scottsdale workers but also to support the retail shops and offices in the area.
“The only housing option for young couples or young professionals or retirees that are living on a fixed income might be this kind of multifamily for rent — and rent while the market’s so hot,” he told The Arizona Republic in November.
Between 2011 and 2021, only 110 new multifamily dwelling units broke ground in the Shea Corridor area, according to a Republic analysis.
Old Town discussions
Ortega, who was elected mayor in 2020 on a platform of sustainable growth, was critical of projects the previous council majority approved. As mayor, he’s sought to address problems he sees with zoning ordinances and development guidelines that allowed former leaders to approve 150-foot buildings with higher density.
The council has twice met to discuss growth in Old Town and taken up such topics as appropriate building height, development costs and available infrastructure.
They’ve suggested capping downtown building heights at 72 feet, ensuring commercial development make up at least 20% of any mixed-use project, and reevaluating bonus heights, a system in which developers pay for community amenities in exchange for more height and density.
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The council has proposed that the bonus system include a 10% open space commitment, a 1% public art contribution and increased fees.
Council members haven’t been able to agree on whether development pays for itself and requested more data on issues related to the benefits developments bring, infrastructure needs for a sustainable future, and how much developers should pay for city improvements.
On one side, the council majority said development brings benefits but the city has been picking up a lot of costs that are created by new projects while there are infrastructure issues regarding water, electricity, and city services that need to be analyzed to ensure growth is sustainable.
On the other hand, Councilmembers Tammy Caputi and Linda Milhaven argued that development pays for itself.
“When my house was built, however many years ago, the developer put the streets and the sewers and embedded the price of the streets and sewers in my house. And I pay property taxes and spend my money in Scottsdale and pay for that infrastructure that supports my house. … To say that it’s done on the backs of other citizens fails to recognize the fact that new development will pay more in property taxes and bring more taxpayers to the table that will pay for the services that they use,” Milhaven said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 480-267-4703. Follow her on Twitter @renataclo.
AUTHOR: Renata Cló