Scottsdale City Council gives thumbs up for $1B development |

Tom Scanlon, Progress Managing Editor
15 Min Read

In “Heart of Darkness,” Joseph Conrad achieves literary greatness with an extraordinary build-up of his complicated protagonist, Kurtz.

Over many pages before his physical entrance to the book, Kurtz is described as “a universal genius” and “an emissary of pity and science and progress.”

Similarly, the man behind the Parque – George Kurtz – was not seen in the months of build-up for his massive, live-work-shop project, described by some as the most innovative development to hit Scottsdale. 

In Airport and Planning commission meetings, Kurtz was not physically present, though he loomed over the proceedings as his representative repeatedly referred to him as “a visionary” and “the man you want to transform Scottsdale.”

Kurtz, who made his fortune as co-founder of cybersecurity giant CrowdStrike, finally surfaced Nov. 13, successfully pitching the Parque to Scottsdale City Council.

“Transformation begins with a vision,” the ginger-haired, mustachioed Kurtz said, reading from a prepared statement. “In the case of The Parque, our vision is to create a true mixed-use project that not only represents how special Scottsdale is, but a project that respects residents’ values and embraces our community’s high standards of sustainability. 

“I believe the park will be a catalyst that attracts the company’s top innovators, technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and knowledge workers.”

(A representative later clarified Kurtz meant to say “country’s top innovators,” not “company’s top innovators.”)

Kurtz vowed to create a “culture of the best and brightest that will accelerate Scottsdale’s growing technology community.”

This visionary’s vision was quite far-sighted:

“I believe you have the opportunity tonight to show the Valley and Arizona and perhaps the country that Scottsdale is a city evolving into a north star of innovation and sustainability.”

Council approved Kurtz’s “transformational” project at the former CrackerJax site by a 5-2 vote – with council members Barry Graham and Kathy Littlefield opposed.

Even those who voted for it agreed the project would bring more traffic to an already-clogged Scottdale Road. 

The Parque is to be located adjacent to the Promenade, which Kurtz took over last year, and across the road from Kierland and Scottsdale Quarter. 

After months of build-up, George Kurtz – the “visionary” behind the Parque – finally surfaced, successfully pitching his $1 billion project at the former CrackerJax to Scottsdale City Council. (City of Scottsdale)

Split vote

“You can’t judge Mr. Kurtz as you would an ordinary man,” a character insists in “Heart of Darkness.”

Along that vein, several council members who campaigned against rampant growth defended their votes for the Parque, insisting this was no ordinary development.

“I have been and will always be a proponent of thoughtful growth,” Betty Janik said.

Acknowledging the “no Parque” pleadings that flooded council members’ mailboxes, Janik said, “I appreciate all the emails.”

But, she quickly added, her research showed many of the claims were false.

“This is not a ‘heat island,’” Janik said of The Parque, pointing to “cool pavements,” scores of trees and solar-covered parking.

“There will be more traffic,” she allowed. “But a couple of things we will do to try to mitigate the effects of traffic.”

She said the city has requested a grant from the state to better regulate flow of traffic in the area – and added many who live at The Parque will work from home.

Janik’s fellow council member Solange Whitehead praised Kurtz for “reducing Promenade water use by 57%.”

“Scottsdale sets the bar on so many fronts. Once again, we’re going to set the bar,” Whitehead said before voting for The Parque.

Councilman Tom Durham felt the need to clarify his 2020 campaign message.

“I never advocated for ‘no growth,’” he said.

“I think this fits the category of smart growth,” Durham said, before voting for t project.

“Much of my support is (for) Mr. Kurtz,” Durham added. “I think he’s the kind of person that can develop this into a job center.”

With a sigh, Durham underscored the inevitability of change: “I wish we were still 50,000 (population) or whatever we were 50 years ago, but it’s not going to happen.”

Councilwoman Tammy Caputi gave no apologies for her Parque vote. 

“This is exceptional quality worthy of our gold standard,” Caputi proclaimed.

She added that those against development are exaggerating the reality, stating only six development projects have been approved by City Council in three years.

“We are not growing out of control,” Caputi said. “We are certainly not becoming L.A.”

Before voting against the project, Littlefield noted The Parque’s plan “has many, many good characteristics and good features. I fully appreciate them but I also have some major concerns that have not been addressed.”

She said over 1,000 apartments will create a traffic nightmare on Scottsdale Road – and that building apartments next to the Scottsdale Airpark is too dangerous.

“Allowing 1,200 apartments to be built that close to our airport will be putting them in jeopardy. It only takes one accident,” she said.

Littlefield also said she was concerned the development agreement states it is “nonbinding and can be changed” and “conceptual only and subject to future modifications.”

She expressed skepticism the finished project will live up to the advertised plan.

“I would like to know what is really going to be built there,” Littlefiled said. “I’ve seen too many pretty pictures in the past.”

The other representative who voted against the project, Graham, also offered muted praise for the Parque.

But, he decided, “I still struggle with the overall size of the project and how it may impact the area of the city.”

The Parque plans to develop the former CrackerJax on Scottsdale Road, next to the Promenade. Some fear this will lead to traffic nightmares. (City of Scottsdale)

The back story

CrowdStrike, which has annual revenues over $2 billion, advertises it “protects the people, processes and technologies that drive modern enterprise.”

Kurtz, who is also a race-car driver, often is quoted on TV news networks and newspapers on cybersecurity issues.

Now writing checks for 7,000 employees, Kurtz co-founded CrowdStrike in Austin, Texas, in 2011 – when a modest amusement park on Scottsdale Road was going strong.

After its business suffered during the pandemic, CrackerJax amusement park – which featured batting cages, mini golf and an arcade – ended its 30-year run in 2022.

Kurtz, on the heels of purchasing the nearby Scottsdale Promenade, swooped in to buy the 33 acres on Scottsdale Road near Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard for $55 million.

The estimated cost of turning the dormant amusement park into the vibrant Parque: $1 billion.

The approved plan calls for 35 feet of “bonus height” allowing for buildings 117 feet tall – at a cost of $15 million. 

Kurtz has a full decade to pay the bonus, per the development agreement.

His mixed-use plan is anchored by 1,182 apartments and condos (down from an original plan of 1,236), a “five-star hotel” with 223 rooms, offices and 253,000 square feet of restaurants and shops.

According to the agreement, Kurtz has seven years to begin construction on the planned dozen buildings surrounding a 2-acre park.

“We’re going to spend more than $1 billion here and transform an eyesore,” John Berry, an attorney representing Kurtz, told the Planning Commission last month.

Berry told the Planning Commission Kurtz is eager to begin construction, though he hedged on a specific start date.

A month later, before introducing Kurtz to City Council, Berry pumped up the “green” nature of the development, vowing “water harvesting” of 5 million gallons of stormwater and a “net zero” carbon impact – with an offset by planting more than 1,000 trees (786 at the Parque, 250 elsewhere in the city).

Berry stressed the project was smaller, less dense and will create less traffic than allowable by city standards.

All, he said, because of the profound leader.

“George is a visionary,” Berry said, of Kurtz.

Pro and con

Caroline Bissel, for one, was not buying Berry’s guru pitch. 

Bissel, who has lived in Scottsdale for 51 years, said, “I don’t enjoy watching it become a huge high-density urban city,” 

The Parque, she said with disgust, “will serve only the wealthiest.”

But at the council meeting, the majority of 15 public speakers enthusiastically endorsed the project as a huge win for the city.

“Scottsdale is a lucky community to have this rare opportunity,” Susan Quinn said.

“This project goes above and beyond any sustainability I’ve ever seen,” Andrew Scheck marveled.

Jessica Jankowski promised The Parque “is going to be great for our community.”

Another called the Parque “one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever read about.”

But one stern-faced critic told council “if you vote for this, you’re morally bankrupt.”

Not so, countered Daniel Isaac, who gave The Parque his “unequivocal support” – then scoffed at “a couple hundred emails” sent to the council as a “smear campaign.”

Littlefield later told the Progress she received five to 10 emails supporting The Parque – and 200 to 300 urging her to reject the project.

The Parque application contains 60 pages of emails opposing the project, though they are near the end of the 423-page packet.

“This monstrosity of a development should NOT be approved,” Regina Knapp wrote.

“Please STOP all the building!” Denise DiTomassi-Gately begged.

“We are not Vegas nor do we want to be!”

Sybil Goldberg’s email echoed that:

“Our roads are already overcrowded and this would only make them worse. STOP building more housing units in this already overdeveloped area of North Scottsdale.”

An anonymous emailer wondered:

“Whatever happened to ‘The West’s Most Western Town’ and three floor building height restrictions?”

Mayor David Ortega directly addressed that, saying Motorola and other companies have come to Scottsdale without ruining the unique nature of the city.

The city can live up to its slogan while inviting innovators, Ortega said.

He summarized The Parque as “a great opportunity.”

‘Water harvesting’

Berry was unhesitatingly confident The Parque will pour up to 5 millions of water into the city’s system, via “harvesting” rain.

But documentation is far more tentative.

According to the development agreement, “The city and developer have determined that they seek to implement and test a new concept for water capture and conservation.”

The agreement states The Parque “concepts to allow the storm water generated on the property to be stored and subsequently diverted over time into the city’s sanitary sewer collection system if and as determined acceptable by the city.”

When Janik asked him to explain the system, Brian Biesemeyer. executive director of Scottsdale Water, was enthusiastic – though a bit hazy.  

The storm water harvesting idea, he said, came by “working with the developer on how to mitigate water impacts of this development.”

The idea, he explained, is to capture rain, send it to a treatment plant and then “back to an aquifer for future use.

“We think it’s a unique and innovative project,” Biesemeyer said, “and are anxious to see it.”

The Progress asked Biesemeyer if this “new concept” has been done elsewhere in Scottsdale – and how confident he is that the system will work.

“Scottsdale Water has tested this concept out at Westworld where we have successfully drained the retention basin slowly back into our sewer system,” Biesemeyer responded. 

And, as is the goal for the Parque, this water was treated at Scottsdale’s advanced facility “before it’s recharged back into the aquifer.”

The “new concept” part is working with a private development for a similar plan, he said.

“This concept is not possible at all locations due to limitations in our sewer system,” Biesemeyer said. 

“However, where sewer capacity exists, it is a viable way to gain additional water.” 

Tom Scanlon, Progress Managing Editor

2023-11-19 07:00:00 , ""news"site:" – Vivrr Local

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