Market, not marketing, prevailed - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Market, not marketing, prevailed

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Posted: Friday, March 24, 2006 5:20 am | Updated: 3:08 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

After visitors had been slowly abandoning it for years, the surest sign yet that Scottsdale’s downtown now has fully re-emerged was that woman who police say stiffed a Scottsdale Fashion Square spa for $1,400 worth of Botox treatments.

If an area is so irresistibly attractive that people are even showing up to steal some face work, then you know that it’s definitely where fun things are happening.

Downtown’s success story is written on three themes: The economic rebound since the last recession; the city having dismantled redevelopment districts that did nothing but stymie redevelopment, concentrating on zoning and infrastructure instead; and the big loft and high-rise condominium craze.

Noticeably absent from this list is anything to do with major marketing strategies, which were seen by city officials, downtown merchants and property owners and yes, newspaper editorial writers and columnists like yours truly, as the best path to attracting people downtown.

Of course, if the economic rebound were not quite so robust, if the redevelopment districts were still there and the condo frenzy never happened, downtown would still be in quite a soup in need of the herbs and spices of effective marketing.

But several marketing efforts, including the nowdefunct Downtown Scottsdale Partnership, yielded few tangible results, and those merchants and owners remain as unable to get along or agree on a common promotional strategy as they have been for years.

Luckily for them and for Scottsdale, the marketplace itself has re-energized downtown largely without them. As the Tribune’s Ryan Gabrielson reported Thursday, over the past five years sales receipts from the five most central downtown areas is up 25 percent.

There’s fantastic foot traffic downtown, which leads to the next observation.

Somehow believing that beyond infrastructure, zoning and acting in an encouraging rather than defining role, city officials had created the Downtown Group. Staffed by city employees who once advised a city “downtown commission” — which was little more than a bunch of merchants and owners who could conveniently disagree in the same room — this office really has little need to exist any more, if it ever did.

That’s not the city staff’s fault, really; government intrusion was never going to accomplish downtown’s rise no matter who was attempting it. Last May the city stopped assessing merchants for marketing and in June effectively decommissioned the commission.

It’s time to give the staff members new jobs and close an office that downtown doesn’t need and didn’t rely upon for its re-emergence.

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