Boutiques and gourmet restaurants in buildings designed to evoke images of a Western winery are ready to rise from the construction debris that lines the south bank of the Arizona Canal in downtown Scottsdale.
Retailer Jennifer Croll is fashioning the shopping segment of developer Fred Unger’s $150 million Southbridge plan, a shopping-dining-residential-office project slated to stretch for four acres along the canal banks from Scottsdale Road to west of Goldwater Boulevard.
Ultimately Unger plans to build four retail-restaurant buildings topped with office condos, plus 13 three-story brownstones, 12 loft homes with shops below, and a 42-condo complex.
His project is pegged by Scottsdale to become a bridge from Scottsdale Fashion Square to the older downtown shopping district.
A pedestrian-and-trolley bridge already spans the canal, but until Unger’s project kicked into gear, it only led to ugly building backs and trash bin-filled alleys — hardly a draw for the well-heeled condo owners and mall shoppers on the north banks.
“This is a critical piece in the link between Scottsdale Fashion Square and downtown shops,” said David Roderique, Scottsdale’s economic vitality director. “Getting people to cross the bridge is very important.”
The city, anxious to keep downtown shops profitable, is kicking in about $5 million to build an underground public parking structure below Unger’s buildings, move some utilities and landscape the canal banks, Unger said.
He hopes to have the shops and restaurants ringing up sales by February or March.
He would like to have the residences started by mid-2007 and completed by early 2009. Actual start date depends on city approvals and how fast the homes sell, he said.
That’s not a problem for the office condos — all but two have been snapped up — or the restaurants — Unger will create three of the seven planned, and local restaurateur Peter Kasperski has signed on for the other four.
As for the retail space, Croll has signed commitments for about 85 percent of the shop space now and a long waiting list of others who want in, she said.
Croll, who moved from northern California to northern Scottsdale two years ago, said she designed “The Mix,” the moniker for three retail buildings, as a complex of boutiques selling everything from clothing to toys to home furnishings. It is loosely based on Fred Segal, a Hollywood star-favored superstore housing small boutiques selling pricey clothing and accessories.
Croll said she expects to fit 25 to 28 boutiques in the three buildings. The fourth commercial Southbridge building will house only restaurants and office condos.
All the tenants will be one-of-a-kind stores, not national chains, she said. Croll will personally take over three spots for her own new concepts, she said.
Among the other tenants on board, she said, are “a local interior designer who plans to sell eclectic finds from Europe,” a high-end linens store, an open-air flower market, a children’s clothing store with a candy bar inside, and fashion boutiques selling such hard-to-find designers as Chloe and Stella McCartney.
One of the most unusual concepts is Players Club, which will sell sports memorabilia from 52 top athletes. Each of the participating superstars gets to designate a charity to receive all the proceeds of the store’s sales for one week a year, Croll said.
“This is like nothing you would see here in Scottsdale at this time,” she said.
Unger said he set out to create a shopping district of chain-free shops and chefdriven restaurants that will appeal to urban dwellers and tourists. He will design and own three restaurants — Estate House, an elegant dinner-only restaurant, Canal — serving cabana-style fare, and an as-yet-unnamed, allday cafe.
Local restaurateur Kasperski will move his Japanese restaurant See Saw to the project and create Shell Shock serving seafood, Mexican Standoff serving Mexican fare, and Digestif featuring Italian rustic cuisine, Unger said.