The June 9, Scottsdale Planning Commission meeting displayed a serious case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) nearsightedness regarding the Greenbelt 88 project.
While this is nothing to stop the presses for in our beloved Scottsdale, this case deserves special attention since it presents an opportunity to reset how we approach redevelopment in our established neighborhoods.
I’ll freely admit, when I first heard about the potential redevelopment, I had visions of characterless stucco boxes stretched to the curbs a la the Tom Scot coming to this center less than a mile from our home and was initially inclined to oppose the project. My wife and I participated in one of the virtual community meetings and those notions were quickly dispelled.
Greenbelt 88 is a visually appealing and exciting mixed use development with architectural character bringing tangible value to our neighborhood in stark contrast to the massive multifamily complexes dominating Scottsdale Road and proliferating south Scottsdale.
One of the unique aspects of this project is the truly local team bringing it forward. The property owner is the developer and many on the team live in our neighborhood. I have to commend the property owner for ensuring the center’s upkeep over the years and putting together a team with a record of successful, high end developments to create this project.
The architect has shared many times in his testimony he is a homeowner in our neighborhood and has a vested interest in delivering a project returning to Scottsdale’s high standards for development. For those who might not be familiar with his CV, his work includes Kierland amongst other Valley icons.
Last time I checked, no one in north Scottsdale thinks proximity to Kierland is a detriment to their property values.
I’m disappointed in my neighbors who have taken to various platforms to patently misrepresent what is being submitted for approval. The opponents of this project trotted out results from a highly deceptive push poll to allegedly demonstrate the low approval of this project. What they offered in the poll was a completely false choice between the status quo and an exclusively multifamily development.
These results are completely meaningless since the question presented has no bearing in reality. This center is not going to remain in its current configuration and use and nor should it. What has been submitted is a dynamic project including multifamily units, retail and restaurant space and public areas to enhance our use and enjoyment of the Greenbelt. I will let the astute reader draw their own conclusions behind why the question was presented in this manner.
One of the more poignant public comments given during the Planning Commission meeting came from a long time citizen of Scottsdale who reminded us, in the not so distant past, the places we call home were once orange groves and our city has evolved. This observation leads into a much needed conversation about the concept of tradeoffs.
To make the redevelopment of this center possible, it must include a multifamily residential component to pencil out. This is the tradeoff for new restaurant and retail space, Greenbelt access and enhancement and ultimately a destination in our neighborhood which increases our property values. The obvious reality is big box retail is finished and mixed use is the new direction for infill redevelopment projects. The Valley is replete with examples of this including the former Papago Plaza and soon to include Paradise Valley Mall.
With regard to community outreach, the development team has made every effort to overcome the challenges posed by Covid to engage neighbors in an open and transparent manner, listen to their input and make meaningful changes to the project. The team has made over a dozen changes to the plan from the input from the Development Review Board alone amongst many more all documented in the public record.
The opposition spuriously claims the development team ignores input from the community and the record clearly proves the claim false. Simply because the land owner/developer is not bending the knee to their demands in no way means sufficient community outreach has not been conducted. Pandering by some on the Planning Commission to the opposition on this point sets a bad precedent for future development in Scottsdale.
The irony is the opposition may end up realizing the unintended consequence of an entirely unpalatable redevelopment becoming reality at the corner of Hayden and Osborn if Greenbelt 88 is not approved. Today, the property owner could say he has grown tired of investing in the process and convert the center into a giant three story self-storage unit complex under the current zoning.
My point in this conjecture is to highlight the absurdity of haranguing responsible developers and fighting quality projects. It seems to be tradition in Scottsdale for some to grab the pitchforks and scream “height and density” at those brave enough to undertake delivering a new vision. There is no virtue in abusing the process to stymie a development team who has demonstrated nothing but good faith.
We should consider it fortunate we live in a place where people want to invest. Reserve the ire for the projects needing improvement and recognize those deserving of support. Greenbelt 88 has earned this community’s support.
The void in participation in city matters is filled by those who loudly boast to speak on behalf of you, your neighbors and all of Scottsdale. Right now, this group of NIMBY naysayers is working to scuttle the transformation of this property into a great asset for our neighborhood. I know they do not speak for me and that’s why I wrote this piece.
Check out the project for yourself. If you think Greenbelt 88 represents the kind of redevelopment Scottsdale should embrace, join me in letting the Planning Commission and the City Council hear from you. Don’t let your silence give them credence. It’s high time we reject the NIMBY nonsense and support those bringing quality development to Scottsdale.
Editor’s Note: Travis Junion is a resident of Scottsdale.