A Wise Investment and a Square Deal

The old saying “you have to spend money to make money” is especially true when it comes to real estate. The City of Scottsdale is learning that lesson and is considering spending wisely to ensure its ability to sell off a $27 million parcel in downtown Scottsdale. Right now the land is unused. It is home to a defunct and abandoned transit station. It is doing taxpayers no good.

If a proposed sale goes through the parcel would be transformed. It will be home to Museum Square.  The project includes new upscale hotels and a new community space and special events area. The developer has also agreed to make improvements to the nearby Stagebrush Theater and provide additional resources for the popular Museum of the West. And the project is hard at work on sufficient parking for the betterment of the area, something local residents want and deserve.

There is a lot to like and we have outlined how this land sale and project would benefit Scottsdale on multiple levels and we have said so multiple times. Here is one example.

In order for these benefits to become a reality, including a $27 million check for the city, there is the issue of removing an outdated restriction. Neither the city nor the developer can make the deal work with this current restriction.

As proposed by city officials, one way to remove this obstacle is for Scottsdale to spend a little less than $3 million to buy and renovate a condo unit in order to provide the Museum of the West with new administrative space. The current office space for the museum is worn out, too small, and would be eliminated anyway to make room for the project. The purchase of the unit has the added benefit of getting a neighboring property owner to drop an objection to the height increase. That increase is no taller than what has already been approved for the nearby Honor Health downtown, or what exists at the Scottsdale Waterfront.

The bottom line is the Museum of the West and Stagebrush Theater get an upgrade. A vacant parcel of downtown land springs to life. Nearby merchants get a shot in the arm as new tourists venture downtown. And Scottsdale taxpayers see a $27 million windfall.

It is a win-win situation even if it is a bit complicated to follow.

Aside from the benefits to the museum and to Stagebrush it is worth noting what $27 million would do for Scottsdale. It could help build downtown parking on the off chance the Scottsdale bond package is rejected (God forbid). It could be used to shore up aging infrastructure such as bridges or flood control canals.

It could pay for a whole lot of public safety. For example, it costs the City of Scottsdale approximately $94,000 to hire one new fire fighter. That includes pay and benefits. It costs the city $118,000 to hire, pay and deploy one new police officer.  Doing the math that is 287 new fire fighters or 229 new police officers.

Admittedly, making this deal happen involves a little extra time and money. But it is well worth the investment when you realize Scottsdale would pocket $27 million while transforming a desolate parcel of downtown land into a vibrant mixed use project.  So often we criticize government officials for lacking the creativity to solve important community challenges. Not this time. And if the current proposal to address the deed restriction isn’t palpable to a majority of the council, come up with another idea or allow the private sector to take a shot. Who lost Museum Square and all of its potential benefits is not a question we should want anyone to be asking.