The Los Arcos Mall, a large eyesore and source of many political battles for nearly a decade, was officially made a memory Tuesday night.
Voting unanimously, the Scottsdale City Council approved the start of construction on the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center on the former mall’s 42-acre site at the southeast corner of Scottsdale and McDowell roads.
During the next year, two buildings — each 157,000 square feet — are to be built to hold Arizona State University’s "technology transfer" department, which converts research into marketable projects.
"SkySong," a sail-like shade structure meant to be the research facility’s centerpiece, is also to be erected along with all the site’s roads and its desert landscaping. Construction is scheduled to begin in late January.
"It’s been a long road to get from a blighted mall to this evening," said John Berry, a Scottsdale zoning attorney representing the planned research center’s development team.
The center is envisioned as a major research facility that will place high technology firms near ASU research and students.
For the city, it is also hoped to spark revitalization throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, which are among Scottsdale’s oldest.
However, as with all issues associated with this south Scottsdale lot, consensus did not come easily.
Patty Badenoch, a neighborhood activist, lamented the buildings’ design, which some residents have deemed boring, and called on the council to delay approval.
"Short-term, just get it done, will leave us with longterm regret," she said.
Badenoch was not alone in criticizing the buildings, which in recent weeks have been described as "big boxes."
"I’m still looking for something iconic, something that’s going to blow me out of the saddle, so to speak," Councilwoman Betty Drake said.
In response, the development team — a partnership between Chicago-based Higgins Development Partners and The Plaza Cos., a Valley firm — altered colors and materials to be used on the building.
SkySong was also reconfigured.
The tall — potentially 125-foot high — structure was shifted to cluster around the center’s main intersection, rather than lining the main thoroughfare.
"They are big, workhorse buildings," said Henry N. Cobb, lead architect on the project from the New York firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.
The buildings are mainly there to mark off public gathering spaces, which the city sought so that neighborhoods connect to the center, where visitors and workers can shop at its retail outlets and dine in its restaurants.
"The two buildings should frame the space on the street to make it engaging to those walking down the street," Cobb said.
Three major gathering spaces have been planned, one on the north and another on the south ends, along with what has been dubbed "SkySong Plaza" in the middle.
In the past, plans to build an arena for the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey team on the site faltered, as did another proposal to build a major shopping center.
"We’ve had some false starts, we’ve had some bad starts," Councilman Wayne Ecton said.
The research center is budgeted to cost Scottsdale nearly $130 million with inflation, and the entire project is estimated to cost $300 million.
The ASU Foundation, an independent fundraising arm of the university, is leasing 37 of the site’s 42 acres to build the center.
Work on the first phase is to be finished by the first quarter of 2007.
"The community is ready. The time for talking is over," Berry said. "The time for building is now."
In other news, the council approved a zoning change that allows Scottsdale Healthcare to build a 184-bed hospital at 73rd Street and Thompson Peak Parkway.