The momentum in downtowns Tempe and Phoenix is undeniable. It represents good news for every Valley resident. But let’s be honest. What’s taking place in those two city centers is a little like watching Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa awhile back, not Willie Mays.
In Tempe, local taxpayers have forked over huge sums to create Town Lake. After a slow start they are starting to see a return on investment with stunning new projects on its shores.
In Phoenix, one could lose count of the citizen’s largesse between Chase Field, Talking Stick Arena, the Phoenix Convention Center, light rail and Arizona State University’s downtown campus. It might be a bit Denmark but a relentless (and generous) commitment to the city core has resulted in a recent tipping point. One of the best exemplars of that recently was Barron Properties, it of the Greenhaus demolition on Roosevelt Row. When asked if they would accept millions in city subsidies to alter its behavior it said it didn’t want or need such public assistance. A developer not accepting a hand out? “Copper Square” has arrived.
That brings us to Scottsdale.
Sure, some public money has been used to create a “Waterfront.” But the bones were largely in place thanks to Salt River Project. Its commitment to arts facilities is significant, but not altogether different than Tempe or Phoenix.
What makes Scottsdale’s success distinct is the stunning, accomplishing vision from the private sector. It’s led by nightclub impresario turned developer extraordinaire Shawn Yari.
A decade ago he had the audacity to think he and his partners could transform a non-descript neighborhood east of Scottsdale Road and south of Camelback. What ensued – the W Hotel, countless bars and nightclubs, purchase of the adjoining Galleria, other office buildings – is radically remarkable. The idea? A concentration of nightlife could create a unique atmosphere desired by tech and other companies, as well as new residential. Drive by it. The amount of investment is astounding. Yari et al have created an attraction like the publicly funded Town Lake and octopus taxpayer tentacles in downtown Phoenix on their own dime. It’s known as the Entertainment District and its achievement for both fun and investment is one of the most underappreciated business accomplishments in the Valley today.
In just a couple of weeks spring training returns. And Willie Mays will likely be back at Scottsdale Stadium to cheer on his beloved Giants. He’s often seen at the famed Don & Charlie’s restaurant which is Cactus League central in March. Once an outpost it’s now in the heart of the Entertainment District. Willie Mays likely appreciates baseball’s return to its roots and rejection of the steroid age. While there perhaps he can also tip his cap to Scottsdale’s version of a downtown home run too.