Schrengohst: Opposition to Southbridge II was not fear of growth


More than one guest columnist lately has written to support the proposed Southbridge II development and the common theme of these letters is that anyone against the project is against growth and development in Scottsdale, one even hinting that we need the Southbridge II because of the coronavirus. Wow!

It seems that supporters of the Southbridge II project as proposed believe that the maximum height and density allowed by the existing zoning code is best. But that is the usual view of those people who profit from development.

In their view anything less than maximum density is considered underdeveloped. A better goal of development is, however, that the design should be appropriate for the space, and the space in this case is the Scottsdale Waterfront and Old Town.

I am an opponent of this proposed project, as I believe are most of the petition signers, not because we are against redevelopment of old or outdated properties, but because this project is the wrong project for the space.

Those of us who have signed the petition for a public vote on Southbridge II feel that it is unfair to dismiss us all as “no-growth”, “anti-development” and other negative terms meant to suggest that we are unable to comprehend the big picture.

We have been lumped together by our critics and described as a massive organization which killed the Desert Discovery Center and will oppose new development of any kind. In reality we are not a large organization, but instead many individuals with a common interest in proposed growth compatible with the space.

Several years ago when many of us supported the Scottsdale Waterfront project, which had a goal of widening the Arizona Canal through Old Town, I envisioned a green space, a recreational space, and a public space. I believed that the Waterfront would complement Old Town. I pictured an integrated whole where together the Waterfront and Old Town became a part of the total downtown experience.

The proposed Southbridge II seems to have made the Waterfront an afterthought. The Waterfront would become just a concrete channel between high-rise buildings. As it exists now the canal trail gives bikeriders, joggers, and walkers an inspiring view of Camelback Mountain, blue sky, and an overview of Old Town.

If this project is built as planned the view along the canal will be windows of high-rise buildings, and Old Town will be separated from the canal. Instead of separating the Waterfront from Old Town, I suggest that the design connect them with larger, and multiple openings between the buildings.

When Tempe constructed the dam in the Salt River and created Tempe Town Lake, they had the forethought to reserve adjacent open space for Tempe Beach Park. Most people would say that the best thing about Tempe Town Lake is the open space not the State Farm office buildings that were later constructed blocking views of the lake.

Scottsdale has a similar opportunity with our canal shore. The last large piece of open space along the waterfront is the Rose Garden parking lot. Instead of the large building proposed for that space, why not create a waterfront park.

A green space with grass, trees, and shade structures. A place for tourists to pause, office workers and shopkeepers to relax and take their lunch breaks, and musical performances.

There are places in and around downtown Scottsdale appropriate for tall buildings and higher density, but lining the canal is not the place.

One project proponent wrote “fear makes good drama” in trying to discredit project opponents and yet he is the only one using fear to gain support. He suggests that disapproval of this project will cause the developer to abandon Scottsdale leaving us with inferior development.

Let me make myself clear. Insults and fear will not make me like the current proposal. I am a 35-year resident of Old Town and will gladly support redevelopment that can improve its financial viability without totally destroying its unique character.

The current Southbridge II proposal needs some serious modifications to get my support.

Editor’s Note: Rod Schrengohst is a Scottsdale resident.