Old West preservation or trendy urban destination? That’s just one of the major questions about the future of downtown Scottsdale that 100 residents intend to resolve at an Arizona Town Hall meeting over the next several days.
The aim is to update the city’s downtown master plan to guide development over the next two decades. The existing master plan was adopted in 1984 and was supposed to have a 20-year life span. That plan focused on turning downtown into a nexus of historic resources, specialty retail, offices, residences, restaurants and hotels.
It appears to have been successful, since it has guided the construction of thousands of new residential units as well as new businesses, and city officials estimate that public and private investment in the downtown has come to about $1.6 billion.
Since the current plan’s inception, downtown has evolved from serving seasonal visitors to becoming a year-round destination, officials have said.
“We have experienced unprecedented investment in growth in our downtown, and it’s been wonderful,” Mayor Mary Manross said.
The 100 volunteers represent a crosssection of the city’s population and bring together different experiences, said Frank Gray, the city’s project manager. They include building industry representatives, business people, lawyers, doctors and nonprofit volunteers.
“It’s a great diverse group of people, as we’re a great diverse city,” he said.
One question is how Scottsdale can reconcile its claim to being “The West’s Most Western Town” with its burgeoning reputation as a chic urban hot spot.
Other issues include:
• How to balance high-end residential and commercial construction with protecting small local businesses and providing affordable housing for the work force.
• How to handle downtown traffic circulation and parking.
• What role arts, culture and recreation should play downtown, and to what extent the city should help in reaching those goals.
• Whether there needs to be any changes to downtown parks and open space, and who would pay for those changes.
• How downtown alterations might ripple through the rest of the city.
Chip U’Ren, board chairman of the nonprofit Arizona Town Hall, which is coordinating the effort, said the volunteers will be broken up into three groups, which independently will attempt to tackle the issues.
Once each group’s recommendations have been recorded, a representative from each will meet to try and hammer out an overarching consensus.
“It’s really an informal process,” he said.
The group involved in the “What’s Next for Downtown” discussions will continue to meet today and next week. Any major disagreements will be included as a minority report in the final document, which will be distributed to the volunteers on Sunday.
On Monday, everyone will meet to approve, amend or reject elements of the report, U’Ren said.
Erin Perreault, principal planner with the city’s Advanced Planning Department, said Wednesday it was too early to make generalizations about where the consensus might lie.
Scottsdale agreed in August to spend $30,000 to bring the Arizona Town Hall event to the city.