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Scottsdale Revives Discovery Center Plan

Phase II of the Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center Feasibility Study was completed in November 2010, by a team led by Swaback Partners.

By Beth Duckett for The Arizona Republic

Scottsdale is reviving plans for a long-awaited Desert Discovery Center by the McDowell Mountains.

The city will ask outside groups to submit ideas after a similar request failed in 2012.

City Council gave the OK for Scottsdale to issue a request for qualifications for the project, a nature center and museum at the base of the McDowell Mountains that could turn into a major Valley tourist attraction.

Outside groups will be able to submit their “vision” for the center, said Kroy Ekblaw, Scottsdale strategic projects and preserve director. He expected to send out the request by the end of April.

Envisioned as an educational hub for tourists, students and researchers, the Discovery Center will focus on adaptation in the desert, under the backdrop of the city’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Previous conceptual plans call for desert pavilions that could be adapted for both indoor and outdoor use, as well as a small amphitheater, multimedia theater, restaurant and gift shop. Interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, outdoor classes and expert presentations would showcase the theme of plant and animal adaptation in the desert.

The city has awarded contracts for at least two studies for the center. A 2010 study estimated the center’s total capital cost at $74 million. About $35 million would cover the buildings and site costs.

Supporters have agreed that a mix of public and private funding will likely be needed. The city could tap into revenues from its sales tax or hotel bed-tax, or ask voters to approve bonds backed by property taxes.

Supporters have discussed ways to sidestep the ordinance and make an exception for the center, while critics of the location have asked the city to consider other places outside the preserve.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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