Scottsdale is a surprisingly booming metropolis and investors are starting to take note. Many projects are being slated to take place in Scottsdale in order to further develop the area. Below is an outline of one of the many plans that could shortly become a reality in Scottsdale, Arizona, making this an excellent time to get into Scottsdale.
Already one of the nation’s largest and most-profitable shopping malls, Scottsdale Fashion Square could evolve into an urban center with high-rise apartments, offices and hotels, according to plans recently announced by mall owner Macerich.
The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, which owns 13 shopping centers in Arizona and dozens more nationwide, is seeking Scottsdale’s approval for a redevelopment plan that includes multiple towers up to 150 feet tall at the luxury mall near Scottsdale and Camelback roads. That could translate to about 10 to 15 stories per building – similar to other tall buildings in the area, including Scottsdale Waterfront Residences and the AmTrust office tower.
It’s not known how many towers might be built, but Macerich is asking the city to raise the height limit for construction at the mall site to 150 feet.
Macerich’s plans also provide the first public glimpse at a possible future for the shuttered Harkins Camelview theater, which closed last year after a decades-long run showing foreign, independent and artistic films. The site is one of several around the existing mall where Macerich proposes raising the height limit.
Other spots include a large dirt lot on the mall’s north side, a surface parking lot on the south side and the space currently occupied by Barneys New York department store, which is set to close this spring.
Redevelopment plans also call for the historical Desert Stages Theatre, on the southwestern corner of Scottsdale Road and Highland Avenue, to move into part of the mall previously used for the Harkins Fashion Square 7 movie theater, according to Macerich.
Decades of mall expansion
Scottsdale Fashion Square got its start in 1961 as an open-air mall anchored by Goldwater’s Department Store and an AJ Bayless grocery store. The mall was purchased by Westcor in 1982 and eventually combined with the adjacent Camelview Plaza shopping center, according to Macerich.
When Fashion Square opened a major expansion that included Nordstrom and Tiffany & Co. in 1998, it became the nation’s 13th largest enclosed shopping mall at nearly 2 million square feet, according to Macerich, which acquired Westcor and Fashion Square in 2002. The mall now boasts 12 million annual visitors and 3,500 employees and still ranks among the 20 largest in the U.S., according to a database compiled by esri.com.
Last year, Macerich welcomed Dick’s Sporting Goods and a new 14-screen Harkins movie theater as part of the mall’s 11th phase of development. It may also be the final stage of retail expansion as Macerich now looks to bring in other types of uses.
What’s next for the mall?
With a half-dozen major anchor stores and as much as 800,000 square feet of small shops, Macerich doesn’t see much need for additional retail space at the super-regional mall, said Scott Nelson, vice president of development.
Instead, the company wants to fine-tune its mix of retail tenants while introducing offices, apartments and hotel rooms, Nelson said. Asking the city to approve taller building heights is the first step in a process that could take months, and actual development could be years away.
City planners will review Macerich’s development application, which will then go before Scottsdale’s Development Review Board for a public vote. Then, the Planning Commission and City Council will have their say.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said a flat request for buildings up to 150 feet tall could be a “tough one” for the council to support, but he praised Macerich as a “good corporate citizen” with a strong economic impact on the city’s downtown.
“Height and density are always a consideration,” Lane said. “We are sensitive to maintaining a Scottsdale-type image. We don’t want to be like any other urban center.”
Lane said he has no aversion to the idea of introducing new uses – such as offices, residences or hotels – onto the mall property.
“One thing that has become more and more obvious is that Macerich understands the value of Fashion Square to them,” Lane said. “I don’t believe they’re going to do anything to negatively impact that juggernaut of retail centers.”
Nelson said Macerich hopes to complete the city approval process by late spring. If the company is cleared to move forward, the empty lot along Highland Avenue north of the mall would be a likely candidate to see the first stage of new development, Nelson said.
Tysons Corner a model for Scottsdale?
Macerich has pursued a similar development model – though on a larger scale – at Tysons Corner Center, a 2-million-square-foot mall on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Fairfax County, Va. Fashion Square is roughly the same size, but the Virginia mall has towers that are about twice as tall as the limit asked for in Scottsdale.
Tysons Corner has long been a major employment center for the D.C. area, serving as headquarters for corporations such as Capital One, Hilton Worldwide and Freddie Mac.
When a new Metrorail line opened at Tysons in 2014, it provided a direct transit link to Washington, D.C., and helped stir a new wave of development, including major changes around the mall.
Macerich built a 22-story office tower next to the mall in 2014, followed by a Hyatt Regency hotel last April that brought 300 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of event space. A 30-story luxury apartment complex opened in May.
Macerich hasn’t stopped there, gaining Fairfax County approval last fall for three more apartment towers and another 12-story office building. The company also plans to build a 2.8-acre park on top of a four-story parking garage outside Macy’s, with walking paths, gardens and play areas for children.
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