By Scottsdale Watchman
We’ve talked about A.J. Germek and his opinions on Museum Square before. You can read about him and them here.
Let’s give a brief synopsis of who he is: he’s a naysayer who seems to love nitpicking on projects and any sort of development. This guy is so negative, he makes perpetual Scottsdale pessimist John Washington look like Tony Robbins.
Germek’s latest editorial thesis on Museum Square, entitled “Museum Square, wait there’s more,” is a follow-up to his first. This second editorial makes us mad, laugh and shake our heads in disagreement all at the same time. It’s like a horrendous sequel to an already bad movie. Think Weekend at Bernie’s and Weekend at Bernie’s II. Yeah, it’s that bad.
A lot of the “concerns” he raised in his second editorial would have been alleviated had he read the application more closely and used some common sense. Let’s dissect his arguments piece-by-piece.
Museum Square’s open space, called the “Square,” will be something useful for community members to visit and enjoy. This robust landscaped plaza will be inviting and will offer ample shade, water, art and a lawn for all to enjoy.
Additionally, the Square will provide a gathering space and destination for special events, programs, and exhibits further enlivening the Scottsdale Arts District, all while keeping it from becoming a homeless hangout. The developer will maintain and upkeep it at no cost to taxpayers. Doesn’t that sound more appealing than an old and abandoned transit station that provides absolutely no community benefit and which nobody visits, which is what is currently located there?
The Square is the most obvious example of open space at Museum Square. It’s approximately 40,000 square feet. What Germek fails to include in his calculation is that the Square is NOT the only open space component of this magnificent project. In numerous places in the Museum Square application, the applicant discusses how pedestrian linkages and pedestrian-oriented trails throughout Museum Square will incorporate open space. The applicant also specifically acknowledges that there will be additional open space areas that will complement the centralized area that is the Square.
It appears as if Mr. Germek hasn’t learned about the “CTRL+F” function on his computer because a simple search reveals 52 different mentions of the words “open space” in the applicant’s submittal. Many of these references discuss ways other than the almost one acre Square in which Museum Square will provide more open space.
Mr. Germek needs to learn how to read a map too. He says that in the submittal, the developer isn’t proposing to build improved pedestrian walkways to connect Museum Square with the Scottsdale Waterfront or Scottsdale Fashion Square. Guess what? The developer doesn’t have to. The City is already coordinating future improvements along major corridors which will initiate better connectivity between Scottsdale Waterfront and Scottsdale Civic Center. Furthermore, not all improvements in the connections will be the responsibility of Scottsdale’s. The applicant clearly states that it will take the initiative to create an inviting pedestrian experience along the adjacent streets, as well as creating bicycle lanes throughout Museum Square that will connect to existing paths. What Museum Square will provide are enhanced pedestrian connections to the struggling Main Street galleries, the Museum of the West, Stagebrush Theatre and the Scottsdale Artists School.
This point made by Mr. Germek makes no sense (again). He questions whether the proposed hotel restaurant, outdoor dining, wine bar are truly “public” amenities if they’re controlled by Museum Square’s hotel.
Sushi Roku, one of the Valley’s most renowned restaurants, is located in the W Hotel or ZuZu in the iconic Hotel Valley Ho. Even though in a hotel, it’s still accessed by the public. Members of the public who are craving amazing food are permitted to go in there and eat unless they’re raging drunk or naked. Are either Sushi Roku or ZuZu any less of a public amenity because it’s in a hotel?
Mr. Germek questions the visitor increase projections by asking “What are the specific numbers?” and then asks, “Who made these projections?”
If Mr. Germek had read the application closely, he would have discovered that the proposed 4-star Museum Square Hotel is expected to bring well over 70,000 guest stays annually. It’s on Page 114. In addition, there will be approximately 500 high-income new residents living in downtown Scottsdale.
Also, these applications aren’t supposed to be research papers. It’s rare that an applicant will provide Chicago/Turabian-style citations to every statistic. Sorry A.J.
Benefits to the Arts
Germek writes, “It is possible that Museum Square will pull visitors away from the art galleries and other attractions on Main Street.” How will it do that? The whole point of Museum Square is to reinvigorate the Arts District and infuse it by bringing 70,000 hotel room nights ANNUALLY as well as 500 permanent residents to the area. These visitors and residents will walk around and visit the nearby galleries, see what Scottsdale is all about and likely purchase art. Also, Museum Square will result in approximately $2 million for new public art on-site and around Scottsdale.
Nowhere in the application does the developer write that it intends to compete with the Arts District. The recurring theme is collaboration, cooperation and mutual benefit. Even a high schooler reading through this document would realize that.
Use of Proceeds
On Page 121, the application clearly lays out that the City is “coordinating future
improvements along (Marshall Way and 2nd Street) which will allow better north-south and east-west pedestrian connectivity between Scottsdale Waterfront (to the north) and the Civic Center
(to the east).” Want to know how the City is doing this? From the proceeds of the sale! Not only that, but the approximately $28 million will be used to fund a multitude of other critical projects that need funding, including public safety, parks, roads and community programs without raising anyone’s taxes.
How does the fact that the developer uses terms such as “where feasible,” “may include, but are not limited to,” and “will meet most” completely dilute the goal of making Museum Square as environmentally-friendly as possible? Also, on Page 156 there are specific details of exactly how Museum Square will be a pioneering development when it comes to green construction. This includes:
- stormwater harvesting;
- water reuse;
- passive landscape irrigation;
On the same page, the developer explicitly states that it will explain and expound upon these sustainable strategies and green building elements during process of completing a later application for the Development Review Board.
Mr. Germek writes that all new Scottsdale buildings and development projects “should” be leaders in the use of solar energy. Guess who agrees? The developer proposing Museum Square. On Page 156, the applicant clearly states that the use of solar at Museum Square is still being evaluated. Just because this application doesn’t discuss solar energy production doesn’t mean that the developer won’t implement it during the design review process.
Finally, Mr. Germek complains about the developer’s color palette and says that it should “provide adjacent land owners access to free items to help connect the project to the community.” So, following his logic, the developer should provide neighbors with free paint so that they would have to change their buildings and have them connect with Museum Square?
Had he read the application more closely, he would have discovered Page 155. He would then understand that the developer will create strong aesthetic connections between existing and newly constructed developments in the area with its use of materials and landscaping. It would be unreasonable to follow Mr. Germek’s recommendation and force surrounding property owners to change their buildings in order to help Museum Square blend in. Is Mr. Germek making the same offer to those who live in his neighborhood?
Don’t get us wrong. We commend Mr. Germek for all his work on NODDC and his efforts to protect the McDowell Sonoran Preserve from unnecessary development. (By the way, this project will generate new taxes tat support the McDowell Sonoran Preserve). With Museum Square, he’s wrong and he’s off base. He’s fighting a project that has tons of support, including backing from the Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association, the Scottsdale Gallery Association, the Museum of the West, GreasePaint Youth Theatre, Larsen Gallery, Legacy Gallery and HonorHealth.
We hope that Mr. Germek wakes up to realize this sooner rather than later.