This Is Going To Be Interesting

Over the weekend, intrepid Scottsdale Progress reporter Wayne Schutsky did what he often does:  break interesting news on things Scottsdale.

In this case, he revealed new efforts to bring Southbridge II back to life.

Readers will recall that Southbridge II was a multi-year effort by the Unger family to redevelop the banks of the Arizona Canal opposite the Scottsdale Waterfront.  The family has developed such notable projects as The Hermosa Inn, Royal Palms and Southbridge. 

But Southbridge II became a political hot potato, narrowly passing Scottsdale’s City Council before a well-funded opposition campaign by nearby property owners resulted in the call for a referendum election.  Uneasy with the prospects of winning that election the developer opted against rallying support leading to a City Council decision to rescind its approval.

As we have said before there were good parts of the Southbridge II plan but the intensity of the overhaul was enough to give anyone pause for an area that has been low scale for decades.

Notably, three new members of the Scottsdale City Council – Mayor David Ortega and Councilmembers Betty Janik and Tom Durham – opposed Southbridge II.  So did current Councilmembers Solange Whitehead and Kathy Littlefield.

So the Unger effort to re-introduce a plan is brave, and uphill.

Throughout the previous debate on Southbridge II proponents repeatedly articulated the benefits of that plan as opposed to allowances under existing zoning which range between four and eight stories for apartments, retail, offices and hotels.  They opined that the height in the original plan created more open space, as exemplified by the Scottsdale Waterfront across the way.  Reject it and the result would be a less impressive, squattier and less attractive redevelopment.  In other words, be careful what you wish for.

We are now about to see if Southbridge II opponents were wise, or foolhardy.

The Ungers have inalienable property rights.  But a new Scottsdale City Council, a majority of whom were Southbridge II opponents, may have a card or two to play.  The upcoming discussion and decision-making will likely be the most entertaining, interesting and important one in Scottsdale over the next many months.

Will compromise carry the day?  Or confrontation . . . as so many in the greater business community wonder if Scottsdale is still a place it can or wants to invest in.