In June, The Phoenix Suns/Mercury announced plans for a new practice facility to be built just north of Camelback Road on the west side of 44th St. Demolition for the building started in August, and a poll showed neighbors were mostly in support of the new facility as it seemed a great fit for the neighborhood.
RED Development announced that along with the practice facility, a “mixed-use destination” will be added as well. Retail and office buildings, plus a boutique hotel and storage facility would encompass the nearly 18-acre site known as Camel Square.
While the poll indicated that the neighbors were generally supportive of the project, the proposed stature of the buildings gave some pause.
The current height allowance, which was approved in 2011, is 56 feet. RED Development’s plans include a 5-story hotel, which would take the height to 75 feet. A new restaurant proposed for the top of the hotel will add eight to 16 additional feet, according to ACMNA member Marvin Borsand.
The Londen Center, located on the southwest corner, stands at 64 feet. Residents fear that if the proposed 75-foot variance is allowed, it will become an ongoing trend with future developments.
“The feedback from our unified neighborhoods is that we support development but oppose any of the 75-foot height requests,” said ACMNA President Tristahn Schaub. “This over-height request is not only for the hotel, but for the office space bordering Camelback, 20 feet off the road. It will forever change the landscape and views of Camelback traveling eastbound and our goal is to preserve the character and uphold the zoning.”
“Eighty percent of the neighborhoods were opposed to the 75 feet issue,” Borsand said. “Not only that, but the corner of 44th St. and Camelback will become like the sidewalks in New York or L.A. It won’t be like a neighborhood.”
Arcadia Villa’s response to the survey showed that 79% were opposed to the 75-foot height for both the building and hotel; 37% were okay with the hotel height but not with the office building, while 73% want to keep the height variance at 56 feet for all of the buildings.
In late July, RED Development held a neighborhood open house for residents to see the future plans and get a chance to speak to developers one-on-one.
“Traditionally people think more height means more density. In regards to our proposed plan, it is the opposite,” said Mike Ebert, managing partner of RED Development. “We are asking for one more floor of height, which will allow for less site density, wider setbacks, and a superior pedestrian experience including more open space with landscaping, shaded areas and detached sidewalks.”
Ebert also noted that less than 9% of the total area of the property is more than four floors and is intentionally focused in the southeastern quadrant of the site near the intersection of 44th St. and Camelback Road, as far as possible from neighborhoods that are located to the west and north.
According to developers, the Camel Square update will reduce traffic, enhance landscaping, open the space and shaded areas and create 1,700 permanent jobs.
“We would like to have final approval by the end of this year. We are eager to create an iconic development at the corner of 44th St. and Camelback, which is what we believe is one of the most iconic intersections in the state,” Ebert said.
Camel Square Meeting
When: Sept. 9 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Devonshire Senior Center, 2802 E. Devonshire Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85016.
For more: acmna.org.
This meeting is prior to sending the plan to the East Valley Planning Committee. From there, the plan will be assessed and sent to the city.