Guest Editorial: Seeing the Opportunities South of SkySong And McDowell Road

By Recker McDowell —

Sometimes it feels like Scottsdale ends at McDowell Road. The roadway is southern Scottsdale’s gateway into Papago Park, Phoenix, the south end of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and Loop 101 freeway.

But of course, Scottsdale boundary stretches farther south to Tempe. And therein is the opportunity. The corridor between McDowell Road, where the ASU SkySong development has thrived, and the Tempe city line has significant economic potential.

Just think about it.

The north part of Tempe has Arizona State University’s main campus, Mill Avenue and the new developments and job centers on Tempe Town Lake.

Just 2.5 miles is SkySong with all its technology and R&D offices. There are other new developments underway or planned. Those include the redevelopment of Papago Plaza. A bit farther north is Old Town Scottsdale with its art galleries, restaurants, shops and its own set of tech firms (such as, Yelp and Zillow).

The corridor between Old Town and Mill Avenue is and should be one of the top places in the Western United States for innovation, creativity, art, restaurants and entertainment.

In between Tempe’s lake and Scottsdale’s core and evolving McDowell Road corridor is a commercial stretch along Scottsdale Road. That area has plenty of short- and long-term potential for both cities. Adaptive reuse and creative redevelopments that leverage and build what has been happening at SkySong, Tempe Town Lake and in Old Town would fit well into the northernmost part of Tempe and the southernmost part of Scottsdale.

But like with other areas, that will take some forward thinking and even risk taking from developers, employers, restaurateurs as well as city officials in both Tempe and Scottsdale.

There are some great assets south of SkySong. The Vista del Camino Park at the southern end of Indian Bend Wash is a great community venue. It is slated to get some repairs to its leaking lakes and irrigation systems via the Scottsdale bonds on the November ballot.

Scottsdale took a long-hard look and developed a plan for the McDowell Road corridor after the exit of car dealers and the planned Coyotes arena at Los Arcos Mall didn’t happen. That sprouted the SkySong development. Now, there are other redevelopment projects slated near Scottsdale and McDowell roads.

Areas to the south should be next up as Scottsdale looks to build on its creative and innovative success in Old Town and SkySong.