South Scottsdale’s McDowell Road is about to get a makeover.
In an attempt to revitalize the once-bustling commercial corridor, the city is about to begin work on a $6 million landscaping project that property owners can incorporate onto their frontage.
"We need to do this so people will want to come down here and shop," said Mike Anselmo, director of expenses for Five Star Ford, which along with Republic West Doors participated last year in a design showcase for the project.
The "Motor Mile" dealership frontage was transformed from brown and green grass to native red gravel peppered with agave plants.
"It made it look like Arizona," Anselmo said. "It has really enhanced the look of the building as clean and new."
Scottsdale will pay for the design and carry plans through the city approval process. Landscaping to private properties will be installed by the city’s contractor, with the property owner reimbursing the city for material costs.
The project, which will be completed in three landscape themes, will be implemented along the McDowell Road corridor from 64th Street to Pima Road. Themes are desert oasis, traditional resort and desert xeriscape.
About 77 residents and business owners turned out Thursday morning at the former Smitty’s site at Granite Reef and McDowell roads to preview the designs.
"Anything we can do for south Scottsdale is good," said Karen Wilson, whose home is off McDowell Road. "But I don’t think it looks terrible now compared to other cities."
Landscaping improvements have been a long time in coming, Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross said about the work.
"We wanted to wait and do it with Los Arcos (being redeveloped) but we decided we could no longer wait," Manross said, in reference to the 42 acres of vacant land owned by developer Steve Ellman. "This is the beginning of new life in south Scottsdale."
The first phase of the improvements, slated to begin in May, is between Granite Reef and Hayden roads. It would have a "desert oasis" theme, with lush native plants and tall evergreen trees grouped together. The traditional resort theme would consist of palm trees and colorful blooms; the desert xeriscape theme would be made of gravel and native plants with less emphasis on trees.
"This is one piece of a bigger puzzle in the revitalization of southern Scottsdale," said Rick Kidder, director of public policy for the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.