Outreach Earn N. Phoenix Development’s 1st Rec.

Scottdale and Bell Roads as envisioned. Credit: Gensler/Snell & Wilmer

By Roland Murphy for AZBEX

After extensive discussion and community outreach, a multifamily tower in a major north Phoenix intersection has earned its first recommendation for approval.

Developer The Hampton Group has proposed a 14-story, 255-unit apartment building at the SWC of Scottsdale and Bell roads. The site is currently occupied by a 90s-era, single-story retail complex consisting of two restaurants and vacant former furniture store.

In the request for a planned unit development and minor general plan amendment, Snell & Wilmer, the firm representing The Hampton Group, said, “…this project will provide modern living in a building of both high-quality… and form that frames the “entry” to the Kierland area, building off of the architectural statement made on the Scottsdale side of the intersection by the 125 foot tall “spire” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the 1MSF Class-A office and retail mixed use Promenade Shopping Center.”

The submittal also states, the “development that will add an architectural statement on the Phoenix side of Scottsdale Road, with an overall goal of framing this signature corridor and enhancing the neighborhood.”

Project Details

As currently proposed, Scottsdale & Bell Multifamily will consist of 160 one-bedroom, 87 two-bedroom and 8 three-bedroom units.

Based on traffic studies and usage rates for other multifamily developments in the area, the request includes a reduction in the required parking spaces for the project. The city requirements would have 387 spaces for residents and 132 for guests. The developer estimates the actual need for guest spaces at only 89 and has requested an exemption to create only 476 spaces in total.

Planned amenities at Scottsdale & Bell include:

  • A 3KSF-plus lounge area,
  • A 4KSF-plus fitness center,
  • A dog park,
  • A 500SF-plus wellness space,
  • At least 4KSF of event space, and
  • A swimming pool area that could also include a lounge deck, shaded outdoor dining space, barbecue grills, one or more fire features and shaded trellis areas.

Sustainability considerations include low-usage water fixtures, dual-glaze windows, LED lighting, Energy Star-rated appliances, and drought-tolerant landscaping in conjunction with a drip irrigation system using “smart” controllers to reduce water waste.

The Road to Recommendation

The submittal was recommended for approval by Phoenix’s Paradise Valley Village Planning Committee on an 11-4 vote at the October 4th meeting.

As is increasingly the case with major proposed new developments, particularly in high-profile locations, the Scottsdale & Bell proposal drew concerns from some residents and officials.

An April article from Independent Newsmedia that covered an informative presentation about the project noted that while the building’s design was consistently praised on a conceptual basis, some members of the Village Planning Committee were concerned about the height.

The article quoted Committee Member Jennifer Hall saying, “The height just seems a lot for me. I think the architectural design is beautiful. I like the glass. But it’s just – it’s tall.”

Including a 10-unit penthouse level, the residential portion of the plan has a height of 141 feet. With the rooftop indoor/outdoor event space, the total height reaches a maximum of 159 feet. For comparison, the landmark spire across the street – currently the area’s tallest structure – stands at approximately 125 feet.

Accepting that major changes to established areas is often emotional for both residents and officials, The Hampton Group and its representatives undertook a significant and sustained outreach program to tout the benefits Scottsdale & Bell would bring to the area.

In a recent interview with AZBEX, Snell & Wilmer Partner Nick Wood and Senior Urban Planner Noel Griemsmann discussed the rise in opposition to new developments and how they attempt to counter emotional reactions with solidly considered planning and active outreach.

Wood noted the explosive population growth the Valley has seen in recent years, pointing out more than 90,000 people relocated to Greater Phoenix last year and that this year could easily see 100,000 more. This has created a significant lack of residential supply versus demand, particularly in and around already popular areas and near major employment centers.

Simply put, increased density is the answer to increasing the necessary supply, and increasing height is the answer to providing increased density.

Wood says, however, that density and those heights must be carefully planned and implemented, particularly in regard to location. Fortunately, in many instances, planning structures are already in place. They have just not been implemented.

For example, Phoenix has 15 Village Planning areas. The Phoenix General Plan recommends development, “Locate land uses with the greatest height and most intense uses within village cores, centers and corridors based on village character, land use needs and transportation system capacity.” Wood points out that, generally speaking, such land use planning has only occurred in the Central City and Camelback East villages.

Scottsdale & Bell meets all those guidelines. The location is just north of the extensive retail and residential developments in Kierland on both the Phoenix and Scottsdale sides of Scottsdale Road. Optima Kierland features 10- and 12-story towers, making the slightly greater height of Scottsdale & Bell a reasonable and unifying entry point to the district.

Scottsdale and Bell Road/Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard is also a major corridor with both a high traffic volume and a high capacity. While planning staff has included a traffic study in its recommended stipulations, both streets are major arterials. The September 30th staff report on the project points out, “Impact to traffic on Scottsdale Road and Bell Road is also limited as the primary access point on 71st Street. The Bell Road access has a right turn in and right turn out restriction, which helps to mitigate adverse impact on traffic on the major arterial.”

Despite a recent political shift in Scottsdale that has fueled development opposition, the City’s Greater Airpark Character Area Plan, last updated in 2020, also supports the development standards for Scottsdale & Bell by mandating, “Landmark intersections are key junctions and should be framed by prominent landmarks and enhanced streetscape treatments.”

Opposition to proposed developments almost always includes resident worries about increased traffic and impacts on the existing/traditional character of an area due to increases in density and building heights. Having development standards in place and locating projects and project types where they fit best are essential to countering opposition.

“It’s an easier discussion with opponents when you have objective criteria,” Wood said.

Armed with feedback from the spring presentation, Hampton Group representatives undertook an extensive public outreach and education campaign in the area to allay fears and garner support, putting off any rush to get the project before officials until the efforts bore sufficient fruit.

In most cases, a proposal will go before the Village Planning Committee for a recommendation vote two-to-three months after the initial presentation. It was six months for Scottsdale & Bell, the time the developers spent reaching out to neighbors and other stakeholders, addressing concerns, amending the submittal and answering any questions they could.

The effort paid off. By the time the matter came back before the Committee on October 4th, there were 21 written statements of concern submitted. There were 169 statements of support, and no one spoke in opposition at the hearing.

The proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Phoenix Planning Commission in November, followed by Phoenix City Council in December. The Hampton Group and project architect Gensler are currently preparing work drawings, finalizing the submittals and calculating final costs for the development, all of which should be completed “in the next couple of weeks,” according to representatives. Assuming all the required approvals are received, the actual project development is expected to begin with demolition of the existing structures targeted for Q2 2022.

 

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