A new arts center could be in downtown Scottsdale's long-term future.
As city planners continue to craft a much-needed update of the nearly quarter-century-old Downtown Plan, policy recommendations in the preliminary draft of the updated plan leave the door open to the possibility of expanding the art scene downtown.
In a copy of the plan draft, obtained by the Tribune, city planners are asking the City Council to consider "exploring new opportunities to advance downtown Scottsdale's capacity as an arts and cultural hub and support development to accommodate new or expanded development of cultural venues downtown."
"The dynamics of art and culture is changing. We need to broaden arts, addressing different generations," said John Lusardi, the city's director of advance planning, who devoted an entire chapter to arts and cultural issues in the proposed draft update to reflect the importance of the arts in downtown's growth. The 1984 Downtown Plan contained only a small arts focus statement.
Forecasting "future needs" for downtown as it continues to see more population, the arts and culture chapter is filled with policy recommendations intended to give downtown "identity and a competitive edge with other commercial areas," Lusardi said, alluding to the multiuse performing and visual arts centers built in Mesa, Tempe and Peoria.
Lusardi said many of the policies planners are recommending to the City Council, are, in part, guided by the Scottsdale Cultural Council's 2006-07 Cultural Assessment, which polled various generations of Arizonans on their art and culture preferences.
While there are no proposals directly asking the City Council to allow for a new facility, planners are asking it to consider "determining and developing arts and cultural amenities that are missing from the current Scottsdale landscape."
Bill Banchs, CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council - a private, nonprofit organization that is charged with managing the city's arts and cultural activities - said plans for a feasibility study to explore a new performing arts venue have been put on hold until renovations on the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts are completed next year.
But Banchs said if a new arts center could be built, he envisions a facility that addresses a broad range of needs.
"I would love to see a really dynamic, iconic arts center that is prominent and strategically located that would not just service the community, but serve as a cultural resource," he said, describing a center that could offer everything from opera performances to art classes.
But first, he said, there must be thorough research to support the viability of a such a facility and just what type would make sense.
The proposals in the updated Downtown Plan are merely suggestions. Lusardi said if the City Council approves the proposals, the next step of the multilevel process is to devise an implementation plan, determining how feasible the proposals are, including determining estimated costs.
"I think we ought to proceed with caution and at the same time, never lose sight of our dreams," Banchs said.
Public hearings on the Downtown Plan are being considered for sometime next month. The proposed plan is expected to be presented to the City Council by summer.