By David N. Smith. 2014 Candidate for Scottsdale City Council
Last week, I became involved in a citizen initiative to save Scottsdale…pretty exciting stuff!
What it really involved was appealing to the Scottsdale City Council not to sell the historic little church building that now functions as the Community Design Studio.
You see, the city has a problem:
Depreciation in city assets continues at a pace of $100 million per year. But, because the Bond Election was defeated last year, there is very little new money for capital reinvestments. To his credit, City Manager Fritz Behring challenged his staff to find ways to consolidate employees into fewer city buildings. He believed some city buildings could be emptied, then sold to raise a token amount of money for new capital expenditures; the Community Design Studio was one of three buildings identified through this exercise.
To understand the passion of the citizens who mobilized to prevent this sale, you have to recall a little of this building’s history. When it was built in 1952, just one year after our city was incorporated, it was to be the Ascension Lutheran Church. Over the past sixty years, the church building has been overlaid with many other identities; it became an art supply store, then a restaurant and finally, when the city bought it almost twenty years ago, it was converted to city offices. As a city building, it was originally dubbed the Urban Design Center, but eventually assumed its current name – Community Design Studio.
Over the years, the building also became a palette for several artists…Max Hammond, Paige Tuhey and Sam Mindrum-Logan…whose artistic creations gave the building its iconic, whimsical and historical character today. Their collective art is now catalogued as part of our city’s public art collection.
Although the City Council has not yet debated the City Manager’s recommendation, I joined several citizens speaking in public session last Tuesday evening to urge the Council reject the option when it is presented. Each of us reminded Council this church is part of our community’s heritage and culture. Reverend Winfield Scott would be distressed to know one of the first churches built in his incorporated name-sake community might be sold and bulldozed to raise money for some new capital expenditure. Families do not sell their heirlooms to put a new roof on their home; they don’t melt down Grandma’s silver service to repave their driveway.
As an update, I joined this same citizen group for a meeting with City Manager Fritz Behring where the group urged him to be creative in “re-purposing” this building, making it a community asset that will continue to reflect our history in an even more open and inviting way. The original sanctuary could continue to be a popular meeting place for community groups; the enclosed patio behind the building could be an inviting venue for outdoor community gatherings.
The livability of our city for its citizens and the attraction of our city to visitors will not enhanced by discarding our history to make room for more high-rises. If I am elected your Councilman, I will be vigilant in protecting the livability of our city and honoring our heritage. That’s why I ask for your vote and your support in the upcoming Council elections.