Guest Editorial: Papago Plaza, Other Scottsdale Redevelopments Reinforce Necessity to be Cool, Creative, Connected

By Recker McDowell —

Papago Plaza in Scottsdale is being demolished. The retro shopping center and its distinctive pink Pueblo architecture are coming down and will be replaced by new apartments, a hotel as well as a planned Aldi store and Starbucks.

The redevelopment is at McDowell and Scottsdale roads across from the ASU SkySong development.

Both Papago and SkySong provide fruitful lessons for Scottsdale as the city charts its course on other projects, growth and economic development.

Developers, city planners and elected officials are all challenged to bring innovative, creative and ‘cool’ projects especially when they are looking to redevelop existing parcels.

That can mean a focus on the arts, walkability and amenities that appeal to tenants (and their customers and employees). The end goal should be to create hubs of activity. All those can be a challenge for developers, architects and city planners but they are also an opportunity and potential competitive advantage against cookie-cutter projects. The Scottsdale Waterfront, for example, has done well to incorporate art and the canal while SkySong has distinctive architecture and has attracted tech firms and now restaurants and bars.  Other buildings and projects have increased their focus on murals, sculptures and other artwork.

Cool projects and redevelopments keep with Scottsdale’s brand. The city is a cool place to visit, to shop and to go to work. That is what attracts top restaurants and chefs, tech companies, entrepreneurs and artists to Scottsdale. The city should have higher standards for its developments and cityscapes.

It also makes competitive sense.

Those restaurants, creative and innovative employers (and their employees) and artists have plenty of cool places they can land. Scottsdale competes with the likes of Austin, Denver, Portland as well as other Valley cities such as Gilbert, Tempe and Chandler for economic development, restaurants and other site selections. Cities across the country, whether it’s Colorado Springs or St. Petersburg, Florida, are all working to make their downtowns into destinations.

They all want to be more like Old Town Scottsdale.

Scottsdale should have a competitive focus on coordinated, connected and community focused designs for new development.

That means seeing properties and parcels evolving and maturing as well as keeping up with changes in the marketplace and consumer and site selectors preference.

Scottsdale is already a pretty cool place. The city and developers just need to keep that front of mind as properties evolve and areas of the city move forward in a very competitive landscape.