By Melissa Fittro for Scottsdale Independent
While retail stores and shopping malls throughout the nation struggle to survive and remain relevant, the owners of Scottsdale Fashion Square are seeking approval for changes they say will ensure the popular mall’s future remains strong and vital.
Lauded by many as one of the most popular shopping destinations in the country, Scottsdale Fashion Square is home to hundreds of retail shops from Forever 21 and Dick’s Sporting Goods, to Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton.
Most important to city officials: The mall is one of the highest sales tax generators in the City of Scottsdale.
Macerich, a developer of retail commercial space, is seeking approval from municipal leaders to expand the mall’s brick-and-mortar footprint.
During its June 28 meeting, the Scottsdale Planning Commission recommended approval of the pursued expansion of Fashion Square. The vote was unanimous, although two commission members — Ali Fakih and Prescott Smith — were forced to recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest, records show.
Macerich is represented by prominent zoning attorney John Berry of Berry & Riddell LLC. The proposal is expected to go before Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Sitting on the NWC of Camelback and Scottsdale roads and surrounded by several other retail shops, office buildings and restaurants is the shopping mecca community leaders say generates more than $10M a year — about 7 percent — of total city sales tax remits.
Macerich is looking to amend the zoning restrictions on the 56-acre site and approval to increase building heights up to 150 feet.
Some neighbors, however, have expressed concern over proposed building heights and a lack of plans available for public review.
The Planning Commission report states the 150-foot-tall building could be “generally located at the northwest corner of Camelback Road and Scottsdale Road,” within a proposed development envelope that would be created by the approval of the development plan.
Macerich is seeking recommendation for approval of a downtown infill incentive district application, over 1.8-acres of the total 56-acre site. The infill incentive request is to amend the required step-back plane for buildings within 300 feet of the downtown boundary, city documents state.
“Once in a while there comes before you a case that is critical in the long-term sustainability of our community, and this is one of those cases,” Berry said during the June 28 meeting.
“We have a downtown that is the envy of the state, the envy of the country. It is a downtown that is vibrant, alive, attracting investment — billions in investment — we have to protect and sustain that.”
Several downtown Scottsdale residents gathered at City Hall June 28 to voice both opposition and support for the case.
A neighboring condominium community, Optima Camelview Village, had several residents who voiced concerned over the building height and lack of plans presented prior to voting on the Planning Commission recommendation.
Planning Commissioner Larry Kush said it’s not unusual for a developer to submit plans that are vague or general in nature.
The mall site is designated in the Scottsdale General Plan as mixed-use neighborhoods — which includes higher density residential, office and retail uses. Additionally, the site is identified as a growth area.
The proposed map amendment and development plan details potential land uses that could include, but are not limited to, additional retail, office, hotel, restaurant, multifamily residential and a grocer.
Plans also include a proposed 25 dwelling units per acre, while up to 50 are allowed, according to the Planning Commission report.
The development proposal could accommodate up to 1.8MSF of additional commercial floor area, and 1,625 dwelling units, the Planning Commission report states, although it notes that it is not likely to develop to maximum potential.
The mall is presently approved at a height of 90 feet, Berry says, in addition to Optima at 130 feet, the Amtrust building at about 150 feet, and two waterfront towers at 150 feet.
He says Macerich and the community have been working together for 21 months — since November 2015 — to come to a mutual understanding of what is required and desired.
Read more at Scottsdale Independent.
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