Here’s why Scottsdale and Tempe are experiencing a development boom
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have curbed progress for a lot of businesses in the East Valley, construction showed no signs of slowing down. Massive multifamily housing communities, expansive business campuses, eye-catching mixed-use towers and luxury hotels are transforming the region’s skyline, and nowhere is that more evident than in Phoenix’s suburban neighborhoods of Scottsdale and Tempe.
“It’s been an interesting year. Everyone was expecting the worst, but we continue to be as busy as ever as people and businesses are looking to move here from higher-cost locations,” says Maria Laughner, economic development manager for the City of Tempe.
The last couple years saw Tempe pivot from a university town into the Valley’s second largest urban center. The area surrounding Tempe Town Lake has experienced some of the most notable change. Completion of the 16-story mixed-use Watermark in 2019 brought retail and dining options to the north shore. “People are using the plaza area as part of their walking path, which is what the developers wanted when the project was designed,” Laughner explains.
The remainder of 2021 and 2022 will see the creation of more mixed-use projects that will attract not only new businesses but also workforce. Just across the Salt River, the 24-story towers of The Pier will complement the Watermark’s gleaming facade, while adding office and retail space as well as 500 apartments.
Visitors will also have more options over the next couple years.
“We have a lot of entitlements for hotels, primarily in the downtown area, and we’re glad to see three or four of them under construction now,” notes Ryan Levesque, community development deputy for the City of Tempe. “Since the early 2000s, Tempe has been underserved by hotels. Our occupancy rates run in the 90% range, and when we have large events, people have to stay in other communities because we simply do not have the space to accommodate everyone.”
Scottsdale is also experiencing an increase in hospitality growth.
Last year saw the opening of a number of anticipated projects, including Canopy by Hilton Old Town and AC Hotel Scottsdale North. The next 18 months will bring even greater value to the city’s tourism sector with the opening of a bevy of high-end hotels as well as entitlements for additional accommodations in
Old Town’s Entertainment District and North Scottsdale’s Airpark.
But Scottsdale is more than just a resort destination. It is fast becoming a center for finance, insurance and health care. “Companies that are expanding or relocating from either the East or West coasts are looking for areas where they can cluster,” says Rob Millar, economic development director for the City of Scottsdale. “We currently have a strong position in these target industries, and there’s a great capacity for growth.”
Nationwide Realty Investors added to the conversation when it purchased 134 acres in the high-profile section of North Scottsdale known as Crossroads East, which runs along the Loop 101 between Hayden and Scottsdale roads. The firm is developing a master-planned community, called Cavasson, that will include commercial office space, hotels, retail, restaurants and infrastructure improvement. Construction of the project’s anchor tenant, the 460,000-square-foot Nationwide Insurance headquarters, was recently completed and employees are now being phased into the office.
Across the street from Cavasson, stun gun and body camera manufacturer Axon Enterprise plans to build a new state-of-the-art headquarters that will consolidate five location and include manufacturing and research. The company recently acquired the 73-acre lot for $50 million at an Arizona State Land Department auction.
“For a long time, the former Henkel headquarters, renamed the Ilume Innovation Center, was the lone office building in that region north of the 101,” Millar says. “Now that area is taking on an unofficial corporate role, and there’s capacity for more business headquarters. We still have about 700 acres of state land available.
“Companies like to be located in areas where there is a lot of growth,” he continues. “The synergy that comes from being clustered near similar businesses and shared talent adds to the economic impact.”
On the following pages, AZRE Magazine takes a look at some of the most highly anticipated projects currently underway that will not only change the landscape of Scottsdale and Tempe but also the way the cities’ residents live and work.
Caesar’s Republic Scottsdale
Caeser’s Entertainment brings the glitz of Las Vegas to Scottsdale Fashion Square with its first nongaming hotel experience. With construction scheduled to begin in Q4 2021, the 11-story boutique resort will add 265 rooms to Old Town’s northern edge. Designed by Missouri-based BRP Architects and built by Layton Construction, the luxury accommodations will feature two restaurants by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, while Scottsdale-based Riot Hospitality Group, owner of The District, Farm & Craft and El Hefe, among others, will offer dining concept Seven (SVN) on the seventh floor.
In 2018, Nationwide Realty Investments paid $83 million for a 134-acre plot of state land at the northwest corner of Loop 101 and Hayden Road, which the company and general contractor Layton Construction are transforming into a $950 million mixed-use development. Anchoring the property is the 460,000-square-foot regional headquarters for Nationwide Insurance and an adjacent five-story parking structure. Also under development are the 150,000-square-foot technology headquarters for Choice Hotels International and the 237-room Hilton North Scottsdale. Designed by BRP Architects and featuring 15,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel will cater to business travelers.
Curio Collection by Hilton Old Town
Part of the same portfolio as Scottsdale’s renowned Boulders Resort & Spa, Hilton’s newest boutique brand will be located on Camelback Road at the former site of the famed Don & Charlie’s restaurant. Featuring 169 guest rooms, 4,500 square feet of meeting and events space, a 10,000-square-foot pool deck, on-site restaurant, retail options and more, the six-story, 97,000-square-foot luxury hotel in the heart of the Entertainment District is being developed by Opwest Partners.
Centered around the historic Triangle Building, which was designed by renowned midcentury architect Ralph Haver, this $150 million mixed-use development will include a 168-room AC Hotel by Marriott, a 190-unit residential complex, a restaurant and commercial space. Utah-based developer PEG Development is working with Ryden Architects to create a preservation plan that will maintain Haver’s distinctive low-pitched single-gable structure that once served as Scottsdale’s City Hall.