Guest Editorial: Turning Foes Into Friends

By Recker McDowell

It is very easy to cast skeptics and opponents of real estate developments and economic development projects as cranky neighbors or stubborn, stuck in the mud ‘no growthers’ resistant to new ideas, innovation and change.

And some are just that. Whether it’s the growth debate going on in Scottsdale or economic development projects in rural parts of Arizona, there are ‘slow growthers’ who are simply ‘no growthers’. They are resistant to anything new in their slice of the world even if it brings new jobs, tourists, tax revenue or revitalizes a property. They oppose change even when it is for the better.

But that does not mean every opponent, every skeptic of a real estate development or economic development investment is that way.

Neighbors, existing business owners and others with institutional knowledge of a market or specific location can help developers and employers make their projects and investments better. Those improvements can help projects get approved and be successful.

The ‘locals’ can help improve architectural designs, identify the best amenities for their community and make new developments more in tune with the neighborhood.

Those locals also might know the history of a property and how a new concept for it might also effectively harken to (or in some instances) overcome its past.

History, context and connectivity to the community and local economy can take a new development or business concept to the next level whether it is in Old Town Scottsdale, downtown Tempe or the rural towns along Route 66 or U.S. 60.

The challenge and opportunity for developers is to identify residents, existing business owners and even skeptics they can work with to make their projects not only better but to also get them approved by planners and elected officials.

Community engagement and willingness to work with neighbors and existing business are increasingly important for new projects to make their way through the approval pipeline.

Reasonable skeptics can also be shown the light of how a new proposal can bring needed jobs to a community or bring new life to a property.

That especially happens if they are engaged and brought to the table.

The equal challenge in all this for developers and their teams is identifying the right and most effective neighbors to work with and avoiding going down rabbit holes with skeptics who are simply ‘no growthers’.

But the challenge of working with skeptical neighbors and existing businesses can be turned into an opportunity including community approvals, improved architecture and better results.