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McDowell Corridor Development Abounds

Skysong milestone marks ongoing South Scottsdale Renaissance

Scottsdale Entrada 1.1MSF mixed-use project. Rendering Credit: Nelsen Partners

By Matthew Roy for Arizona Builders Exchange

Construction crews will commemorate yet another milestone today as the Skysong 4 project gets “topped out,” which is, placement of the final structural steel will see the 150KSF office building reach its final height. DPR Construction anticipates the property to open this fall.

Likewise, the eight-square-mile McDowell Corridor has risen from the ashes of the long-defunct Los Arcos Mall. And the South Scottsdale area has emerged as a bright spot of recovery in the Valley. That emergence comes only after much effort by the city and its partners in recent years.

First steps to success

Once a beacon of boom times, Los Arcos Mall rose in 1969 only to shut its doors in 2000. After discussions fell through for the construction of a new home for the Phoenix Coyotes, the city teamed with the Arizona State University Foundation a decade ago to launch the 42-acre Skysong development.

Scottsdale invested $80M in the project. ASU, in addition to locating its innovation units at the center, also provides research access, educational opportunities and cultural events to the other business tenants at the campus, according to the city’s website (AZBEX, Sept. 23, 2014).

The turnaround took time and when Skysong first opened in 2008, it seemed to stand alone amidst the squalor or vacant and unimproved properties. But over the past few years, with completion of Mark Taylor’s San Travesia luxury apartments next door and the opening of the project’s first 10KSF of retail and restaurants, the recovery moved into full swing along McDowell Road (AZBEX, June 12, 2015).

Multifamily rising

For what was once one of the most densely packed auto sales centers in the Valley, the economic downturn left behind a landscape littered with empty car lots. Neat rows of Subarus and Chevys at more than 30 bustling dealerships gave way to endless expanses of empty, pitted asphalt lots.

Leading the charge of urban infill and redevelopment in 2014 was the luxury, 154-unit Las Aguas apartment project at 66th Street and McDowell. The complex featured two apartment buildings and 18 carriage house-style units with residence over enclosed parking. A feat of adaptive reuse saw the developer retain an existing two-story structure for resident parking (AZBEX, Feb. 2014).

Also within the boundaries of the Corridor, the stretch of Thomas Road from 64th street eastward is dotted with new developments and redevelopments following the city’s adoption of the Southern Scottsdale Character Area Plan in 2010. Investments in infrastructure and streetscape improvements started paying off with the arrival of luxury condos and high rise multifamily projects in the area (AZBEX, Aug. 29, 2014).

Recent developments & redevelopments

Along Thomas Road, plans are being considered for a total refresh of the Scottsdale Executive Villas east of 64th Street. Having languished since the 80s, the property will see a top-to-bottom, two-phase redevelopment, which re-visions the property as a pedestrian friendly destination with courtyards, shade structures and new amenities, such as a café and potential fitness center (AZBEX, March 22, 2016).

Further down Scottsdale Road, a mothballed nightclub and useless parking lot are being merged into a new mixed-use project, with a 170-unit apartment community and retail components planned just south of Oak Street. Designed with modern amenities and “green” building features, the property aims to take full advantage of nearby pedestrian and mass transit access to offer Millennials an appealing and affordable option (AZBEX, March 11, 2016).

West of Scottsdale along the north side of McDowell, the long vacant Scottsdale Auto Mall may give way to Scottsdale Entrada, a 1.1MSF mixed-use project that will bring a cluster of four-story buildings comprising 560 units of multifamily, restaurants, offices, retail and a luxury hotel with ample underground parking. Project plans envision a walkable community amenity to rival any to be found in posh North Scottsdale (AZBEX, Feb. 26, 2016).

On the horizon

The shadow of high-rise cranes and clusters of brightly colored party balloons at now-leasing complexes marks success for the McDowell Corridor’s long-planned rebirth. Even as the dust settles on one project, we won’t have long to wait before new plans emerge for the next big development, infill project or urban adaptation. The completion of another phase at Skysong is just one more shining moment in South Scottsdale’s continued renewal.

McDowell Corridor. Map courtesy of City of Scottsdale

McDowell Corridor. Map courtesy of City of Scottsdale

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