Arizona State University is coming to downtown Mesa, after it already helped revitalize downtown Phoenix.
A big new regional park is coming to Gilbert, following the resurgence of its downtown.
The expansion and enhancement of Margaret Hance Park in Phoenix is impressive.
It begs the question does Scottsdale still need big ideas of its own to move the community forward? There’s a good argument it does not for it already boasts the likes of a massive preserve, recreational wash, renowned special events, the state’s best shopping mecca and a dynamic downtown.
But there are other smart opinions that no community can rest on its laurels because as Ricky Bobby might observe, if you’re not first you’re last.
A coterie of tourism leaders often point to the Desert Discovery Center as one such idea for Scottsdale. We view it more as innate inertia. Just because an idea has been around awhile doesn’t make it good, or novel. We have a Desert Botanical Garden. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve and its trailheads are already amazing. Do we really need people and buildings to preach what nature and wildlife already make obvious? After all, people don’t go to the Grand Canyon for the Hopi House.
To spark a discussion on what could or should be the next big thing in Scottsdale next we proffer several ideas:
*Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, is already one of the great tourist attractions in Scottsdale and indeed, the state. It is currently pursuing designation as a World Heritage Site from the United Nations. Look up the list. To be included with such giants as the Taj Mahal and Pyramids would mean instant additional prestige for the city, as well as significant economic impact. The city should be doing everything it can to assist the process.
*Next, the Museum of the West’s rapid designation as a Smithsonian-affiliate should be enunciated loudly and proudly, whenever and wherever. Next door lies empty city land creating not only a revenue opportunity for the city post bond election defeat but a museum and arts campus second to few in the country. Ever since private land next to the Nordstrom parking garage was developed with horrific, mustard-color apartments, downtown has suffered for a compelling gathering place beyond its Civic Center. Smart, creative planning with this area could alter the dynamic, and spark significant private sector investment to boot.
*The most creative for last. A plan called the Canals of Scottsdale in downtown Scottsdale was defeated in 1999. Voters proved prescient as the area has evolved more organically than the master-planning and homogenization of the Canals plan. It was defeated 54%-46% largely due to the massive condemnation of private property that would have been required as well as the taxpayer money enabling the private development. But might a third cousin of the idea make sense for a part of downtown now, minus those liabilities? Scottsdale might find renewed inspiration in Oklahoma City of all places. There, the city backed by its voters has created a compelling waterway amidst development old and new to create an enjoyable new tourist attraction. Marshall Way is struggling, so is 5th Avenue to the west of it. Why not bring an Arizona Canal tributary down these streets sparking far more intrigue and excitement than now exists, as well as powerful testimony serving as tourist attraction of life in the desert? Redevelopment on the new banks would reassert itself, just as it did once upon the time on the banks of the Indian Bend Wash. Certain private property owners would likely grumble to the idea of change, any change. But we believe they would come around because more commerce is a lot more exciting than more crickets. Sound like too big of an idea? Well, gladly, Scottsdale leaders of yesteryear didn’t think likewise with ideas much bigger.