Guest Editorial: A Landmark Project That Makes Dollars AND Sense

By Scottsdale Watchman

You may have noticed that 2018 was one of the most contentious years in Scottsdale’s history. Residents bickered with one another over whether development should take place in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. They argued about bicycles and scooters in Old Town. Residents even quarreled over which restaurant was Scottsdale’s most elegant for a first date (Dominick’s Steakhouse has our vote).

Despite the back and forth, residents from all parts of the city came together to support a proposed development for Downtown Scottsdale called Museum Square. It would take the now defunct Loloma Transit Center and convert it to something useful: a high-end, mixed-use master plan development between the Museum of the West, Stagebrush Theatre and Scottsdale Artist’s School.

Last year, no less than the following expressed support for the plan:

Scottsdale’s Museum of The West; Stagebrush Theatre; VIRTU; The Larsen Art Gallery; The Legacy Gallery; Scottsdale Gallery Association; The Scott Resort & Spa; Scottsdale Firefighter’s Association; Jason Alexander; Mayor Lane; Councilmember Korte; Councilmember Klapp; Councilmember Milhaven; Councilmember Littlefield; Councilmember Phillips and now former Councilmember David Smith.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Museum Square Makes Sense. What we didn’t really delve into before was that Museum Square will also make Scottsdale quite a bit of dollars too.

Let’s recap the sense part first. Museum Square will bring people together. One of its key components is a large new community square built specifically for public events. Such a gathering spot is something that Old Town sorely needs, especially after losing a key area along the Scottsdale Waterfront when Alliance Residential developed an empty site next to the Nordstrom parking garage.

Next, Museum Square will undoubtedly increase visitor totals to Scottsdale’s Museum of the West and ensure that it remains the country’s premier museum of western cultural heritage. The museum is already a Smithsonian Affiliate and Museum Square will help fund an expansion of this institution.

Let’s look at how it makes dollars too. Museum Square is located in the heart of Scottsdale’s Arts District, near Scottsdale art galleries that form the backbone of Old Town. The city has always celebrated the arts, but many galleries are struggling with online competition. Museum Square and its hotel and new condominium owners will help anchor Main Street, Old Town’s signature arts avenue, and will bring in more tourists who will spend money and shop at these art galleries and shops.

Second, the sale of the underutilized land at Loloma has the potential to raise approximately $32 million for city coffers. It’s no secret that in recent years, the city has had a lot of difficulty in getting voters to approve a bond package that will fund community and infrastructure needs. Recently, Councilmember Littlefield wrote how in the last eight years the city has held three bond elections which presented 13 bond proposals to the voters. Of those 13 questions, only two passed by extremely slim margins. Selling the land is an easy step to get millions of dollars that will enable Scottsdale to fund transportation and public safety needs that have been unfunded due to the city’s inability to get citizen approval for a comprehensive bond package. It shows the city council and the city government being innovative to raise funds rather than always rely on taxpayers.

Third, if the city sells the land now, it will be doing so at the height of the market. The buyer is ready, willing and capitalized. By selling it now at the market’s peak of a positive real estate cycle, Scottsdale will get maximum value.

Scottsdale’s citizens deserve the best. By supporting Museum Square, they will get it.