Love it or hate it, developer Shawn Yari is gradually reaching his goal of transforming downtown Scottsdale’s entertainment district to match his long-term vision.
That vision involves ridding the area of numerous older buildings and businesses to make way for a live-work-play destination for young professionals. The area, south of Camelback Road and east of Scottsdale Road, includes a high concentration of bars and attracts thousands of patrons every weekend.
Yari, owner of Triyar Cos., has met some resistance as he has unveiled his plans and gone through the city’s planning-approval process, but nothing has stopped him so far.
“There’s always differences in opinion of how a downtown or even a city should grow,” Yari said. “I think that’s why we’ve always had the public-input process of having community open houses. The feedback we’ve received is overwhelmingly positive, to not only redevelopment for entertainment use, but also redevelopment for residential and the mixed use.”
His most outspoken critic remains Bill Crawford, president of the Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale’s Quality of Life. He lives not far from the W Scottsdale Hotel, a Triyar development that includes a rooftop pool with an outdoor DJ on weekends.
Triyar also developed the Downtown Entertainment Plaza, a restaurant/bar complex on Saddlebag Trail south of Camelback.
“Mr. Yari has put money and influence into his vision of changing the character of downtown Scottsdale,” Crawford said. “I see these changes as a departure from Scottsdale’s brand and, in some cases, incompatible with Scottsdale’s quality of life. Furthermore, myself and other Scottsdale residents and businesses have been adversely affected on a daily basis by the negative impact of Mr. Yari’s ventures.”
Crawford’s criticism of Yari and his projects prompted a lawsuit by the developer alleging defamation and other claims. The suit hasn’t progressed since Yari filed it in March in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Yari wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.
Mayor Jim Lane said Yari’s vision appears to be striving to meet a demand for those who want to live in the downtown area and have entertainment options nearby.
“And it is to a new demographic that we’re, to some degree, accommodating. And I think that’s part of how the city transitions a little bit, while sensitive to the existing, but nonetheless while trying to meet demand,” he said. “The marketplace does sort of give us a guide on this, and frankly as time goes on, if you’re not responsive to the marketplace, that’s when areas die.”
Sonnie Kirtley, chairwoman of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale, a citizen and small-business owners advocacy group, said the city should have a plan in place to guide redevelopment in the entertainment district.
“Project approval on a case-by-case basis is the problem,” she said. “The city has failed to plan a specific entertainment district with appropriate growth and impact guidelines. Hopefully, new council members will understand the urgency and establish a designated district.”
Demolition is under way to clear most of the city block that housed Myst nightclub on Shoeman Lane and Suede restaurant/bar on Indian Plaza to make way for Triyar’s Scottsdale Retail Plaza, an entertainment complex with an indoor-outdoor pool club in the center.
The Development Review Board gave its final approvals to the project last week. The complex is set to open in the first-quarter of 2013.
Yari has two projects in the pipeline that would bring 320 apartment units to the district. Industry East (188 units plus retail) and Industry West (132 units plus retail) are in the early stages of the city’s planning-approval process.
The complexes would be on the north side of Stetson Drive between Wells Fargo Avenue and 75th Street.
“Industry East and Industry West will serve as medium-price-point rental product, and they’re high quality,” Yari said. “People can live there and enjoy the different venues that are there now and will exist in the future. Also, they can work in the numerous businesses that are located in this area. It’s a true live, work and play community.”
The downtown infill-incentive proposals are requesting increased building height and density, and other amended development standards in exchange for public benefits, said senior planner Kim Chafin.
The current zoning allows a maximum building height of 50 feet and five levels, while Triyar is requesting an increase to 70 feet and six levels, she said.
Also, Triyar is seeking permission to provide slightly less parking than is required, four less spaces at Industry East and 13 less at Industry West, Chafin said.
“You are allowed to ask for variations from the regulations, and then to get those you have to propose some sort of public benefit, so we’re waiting to see what that benefit will be,” she said. “They haven’t identified one yet.”
Yari hopes to have Industry West under construction in eight to nine months, and plans to build the complexes in phases. The proposals could be considered by the Development Review Board in September, followed by the Planning Commission and City Council.
Back on track
Yari’s original vision included a 10-acre, $390 million mixed-use complex southeast of Scottsdale and Camelback roads, with new clubs, restaurants, condominiums, offices, a hotel and a bowling center.
However, the downturn in the economy forced him to rethink his plans and instead focus on growing the same vision, but one project at a time. Triyar also owns other, smaller properties in the entertainment district that later could be pegged for redevelopment.
“We would like high-quality entertainment, high-quality restaurants, upscale residential condos and apartments, and then different ancillary uses of retail, such as breakfast and yoga, workouts and personal training,” he said.
Although Yari won’t divulge how much Triyar is investing in each project, he did say the investment for the pool club complex alone is in the “substantial eight-figure range.”
If managed well, Triyar’s plans should be a “positive thing” for all of downtown, Lane said.