Like is now occurring in many parts of Arizona, Scottsdale is having a discussion about apartments. How many is too many? Where should they be? How can they help address the rising cost of housing for workers and just about everyone? Should preference be given to projects near shopping centers that account for the sales tax revenue that funds city services?
The marketplace is clearly suggesting a need in the city. But should city governance try to combat this economic dynamic or celebrate it?
Some of the discussion has gotten a little silly. Some of it is serious, however. Often times, it’s hard to decipher the good from the bad and the meritorious from the meritless.
All sides should be able to relent when new information arises, no matter what side of the issue one may be on. Note here we are channeling our inner Betty Janik, a councilwoman who often counsels such.
One of the current apartment proposals currently under scrutiny is the 92 Ironwood project across the street from Honor Health’s North Scottsdale hospital campus. This is a project separate from the “Kaplan” apartment project that is now before the City Council. 92 Ironwood is also next door to an important North Scottsdale shopping center best known for its Chompie’s restaurant. The proposed site is dominated by an office building that has been vacant for 12 years and which has had a host of drainage and homeless issues. Contrary to some observations it is hardly an appealing part of the landscape, and any interested person would be well served visiting the site themself to see.
Importantly, Honor Health – Scottsdale’s largest employer — is supporting the project because of the desperate need for nurse and health care housing in the area. And consider this: there hasn’t been a multi-family project built within 5 miles of this site in 20 years. That’s not a typo. So, the need certainly appears to be real.
The following should be considered too. 92 Ironwood would be the lowest density apartment project approved in the broader North Scottsdale area in the past 5 years. Why is this important? Because it shows that this City Council, largely made up of electeds more cautious about growth, can find a balance, a compromise. The city’s largest employer gets help, including a developer paid stoplight it says would be extremely helpful. A site that needs investment and redevelopment gets it. A shopping center next door gets new customers. And heights and densities come down due to the new directive from this Council. This apparently happened too after significant input from the McCormick Ranch Property Owner’s Association which had to sign off on the project for it to be considered by the City Council. As for any other redeeming qualities we’ll leave it to the developer at upcoming hearings to espouse what may be be noteworthy.
Notably, what noise around this project comes not from neighbors but from people in literally no proximity to it. These voices matter of course. But should they matter more than the city’s largest employer across the street rightfully concerned about housing for its nurses? Or the small businesses (which support 92 Ironwood too) that share a property line with the project and have to deal with a pandemic and Amazon on a daily basis? Probably not.
Not all apartment projects are created equal. Some are crap. Some are pure land grabs. Some are poor substitutes for existing conditions. Some are good. And some are great. Upon examination, 92 Ironwood appears to be in the pretty good category but that’s ultimately up to the 7 people that lead the city.
All of this is the beauty of democracy, especially Scottsdale style.