Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross’ recent State of the City addresses have been dominated by big ideas that existed solely on paper:
Redeveloping the old Los Arcos Mall site, building the Scottsdale Waterfront and completing the McDowell Sonoran Preserve have been for years the city’s most elusive goals.
The city might be on its way to checking two of those off its to-do list and, in the process, pumping new life into south Scottsdale.
This evening, Manross is expected to point to advances on the Waterfront project and former Los Arcos site during her annual address as proof that Scottsdale’s plans for revitalizing south Scottsdale are coming to fruition. In addition, Manross said, she intends to offer new initiatives to enhance the city’s arts programs.
"We must remain very strong, unwavering, (in our) commitment to all the revitalization efforts and projects that we have," Manross said Wednesday.
The six-year fight over Los Arcos has ended and planning is under way for the ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation, a major research center mixing Arizona State University programs with private firms. Construction on the 42-acre site is scheduled to begin by year’s end.
"The city has made great strides in the redevelopment of south Scottsdale, which clearly we’re a part of," said Steve Evans, a director of the ASU Foundation. "We’ve got good momentum there."
Just east of Scottsdale Fashion Square, the longstalled Waterfront luxury condominium project is under construction. The steel frames of the $250 million project’s two, 13-story towers are beginning to rise into the city skyline.
"Those obviously are such long-term projects that they’re going to stay at the forefront of what we’re doing," Manross said.
Completing the 36,400-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve in north Scottsdale remains a priority, as Scottsdale officials continue working to buy the nearly 20,000 acres of state trust land needed to finish the project.
City officials have said that $1 billion has been invested in Scottsdale’s downtown. Several residential projects are planned for the area as code enforcement has been increased for all of the city’s southern half.
"The effort the city is making downtown is highly commendable and way overdue," said Bob Vairo, president of Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, a north Scottsdale advocacy group.
While arguing that traffic in the city is becoming a major problem, especially north of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, Vairo said coalition members are pleased with Scottsdale’s direction.
Others are less positive about the city’s future.
Craig Jackson, president of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. in Scottsdale, said the tourism industry is at risk of shrinking. The industry is a major cash-flow source that Jackson argues Scottsdale officials have not focused on maintaining.
"It’s sort of a turn in the road at the moment" for tourism in Scottsdale, Jackson said. "I think we need to nurture it."
Jackson holds the annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction at the WestWorld equestrian center in Scottsdale, but is in talks with Glendale officials about moving the event there.
The city historically has invested heavily in marketing itself to tourists, said Rachel Sacco, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. However, tourism is going through a generational shift — from baby boomers to Generation X and then to "millennials" — and Scottsdale must reevaluate what it needs to offer.
"We can’t assume (vacationers) are always going to want resorts, golf and spas," Sacco said.
As part of the revitalization effort, Manross said she will propose that Scottsdale establish a theater district downtown and continue its effort to land a Western museum that could also be a tourist destination.
Lamar Whitmer, a lawyer and development consultant, said establishing public trust in the government should be the mayor’s first priority. Making the city more business friendly should be secondary.
"And what’s happening downtown is a good thing," Whitmer added.