Scottsdale City Council approves expansion of Fashion Square Mall

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A major expansion of Scottsdale Fashion Square was approved on Tuesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A major expansion of Scottsdale Fashion Square was approved on Tuesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The Scottsdale City Council gave final approval Tuesday night to zoning changes that will allow for a major expansion of the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall.

The 5–2 vote just after 8 p.m. will allow the mall’s developer, Macerich, to add high-rise towers, offices and a hotel up to five stories above the existing height of the shopping center.

“Five floors more than what’s already permitted allows this community to protect and sustain a critical tourism attraction and economic engine,” said Macerich’s attorney, John Berry, during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Although brick-and-mortar malls have struggled with the rise of online shopping, Macerich says Fashion Square is among the 10 most profitable malls in the country based on sales per square foot, and the expansion will cement the shopping center’s future.

The mall already generates about $13 million in sales tax per year or about 7 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue, according to the Downtown Scottsdale Economic Vitality Coalition.

“It will generate more sales tax. It will generate more bed tax. It will generate more taxes for transportation, more taxes to preserve the Preserve,” Berry said, referring to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Several citizens spoke in favor of the project during Tuesday’s meeting, but neighbors in two large condominium complexes that bookend the mall on the north and south voiced opposition.

Residents of the Scottsdale Waterfront and the Optima Camelview Village cited concerns about density, traffic, noise and changes to the character of downtown Scottsdale.

“'The West's Most Western Town' will become the 'West's Most Chicago-like Town' with those high rises,” said Stephen McConnell, a resident of the Scottsdale Waterfront.

A city report notes “it is difficult at this time to predict exactly what uses and locations of the site will develop and when” because the plans submitted by Macerich are open-ended to allow for flexibility. Berry said the expansion is designed to play out over the next two decades.

Critics say the plans are dangerously vague.

“You're asked to approve up to 150 feet without knowing one detail about what they're going to do with it,” Ray Sachs of Optima Camelview Village told the council.

Council members David Smith and Kathy Littlefield agreed and voted against the zoning allowances.

“I have never seen such flexibility” on a zoning proposal, Littlefield said.

Nearly 300 people filed signatures seeking a legal protest of the zoning change, but the number of signatures was deemed invalid by the city. State law recently changed, significantly raising the threshold of signatures needed for a successful protest. Had the old law applied and the legal protest been successful, the developer's zoning proposal would have needed six votes to pass, and therefore would have been defeated by Tuesday night's 5-2 vote.

However, five residents withdrew their signatures after the protest was filed, dropping the number of signatures below the threshold for both the old law and new statutes, according to Scottsdale Communications and Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette.

In exchange for the zoning exceptions that will allow buildings up to 150 feet, Macerich will contribute $757,365 into the city's Downtown Cultural Trust Fund, which pays for public art and other improvements.

The zoning changes allow the 2.1 million square foot mall to add up to 1.8 million square feet of commercial space and 1,625 residential units, although city planning records indicate that such a large expansion is unlikely.

Macerich has conducted traffic analyses based on 870,000 square feet of additional office space, 290,000 square feet of additional retail, a 200-room hotel, and 400 condominium units.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the zoning protest petition submitted by residents would have failed under either the old or new laws.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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