The Arizona Republic reported that in late July, the City of Scottsdale received the first annual payment on our $81.4 million investment in SkySong. The $141,942 we received is a return of less than two tenths of one percent…not much, but still greater than zero!
At this point, the $81.4 million investment is a “sunk cost” in economic terms – water over the dam, in layman’s terms. Our objectives going forward should be to optimize the benefits of this partnership for all Scottsdale citizens and, particularly, the citizens in the southern neighborhoods of our City. That means generating from the existing complex, as well as its future expansion, the greatest economic prosperity for citizens, consistent with citizen visions and values.
In that regard, citizens might want to look carefully at the upcoming request (also reported by the Arizona Republic) to increase the building height of future development from 60 to 90 feet. SkySong is prepared to argue greater heights will allow buildings with a smaller footprint across the campus. That will mean more open space and green space. And maybe…just maybe…more economic prosperity for our citizens.
I’m not challenging the SkySong request…I haven’t even seen the particulars of what they propose. But, their proposal illustrates the dilemma often faced by such projects; that is, how to grow and provide more economic prosperity, yet still remain true to citizens’ visions of livability. Developers sometimes look for a compromise with the citizens…posing a value-tradeoff question such as: “Which do you want more…lower height or more open space?”
Citizens have clearly expressed a desire for lower building heights, in order to preserve scenic vista views from as many vantage points as possible. Citizens have also expressed a desire for natural open space as a complement to our southwestern, Sonoran desert setting. Fundamentally, citizens want a city that is attractive to live in and appealing to visit; building height and open space are both visions that address the standards of livability we all expect.
Citizens shouldn’t have to choose between their visions, nor should they have to compromise on one vision to achieve another. In fact, there are many standards of development besides height and open space that should not be subject to compromise. The allowed set-back from the curb for a building is one. Set-back compromises we’ve made in Scottsdale have had the effect of creating the second Grand Canyon in Arizona – through the very heart of our city.
Architectural distinctiveness is another. When we haven’t imposed the highest standards of building aesthetics, we’ve seen buildings spring up that look like “Every Town, USA.” Each of these diminish the distinctive character and iconic charm of our city that makes us attractive to tourists and residents alike.
If a project does not have the land mass to offer development sensitive to both height and open space, then the solution may be to either scale back the project or acquire more land. If a project’s economics will not support architectural excellence or open space or proper set-backs, citizens should not be expected to “kick in” the difference to improve the project economics by compromising their visions.
Each City Councilmember is responsible for insuring the visions of citizens are protected. I am convinced we can enjoy economic prosperity and still remain true to our visions of livability. I have a career of experience as a negotiator; as your Councilman, I am committed to fight for your interests. I would welcome your support and one of your three votes November 4.