Old Town Scottsdale merchants: We’re not SoDo

Merchants in Old Town Scottsdale have spent decades cultivating their Old West image, replete with rustic storefronts and wooden sidewalks.

So they’re not exactly happy with an effort to rebrand part of the area with a hip, new name, SoDo, for south downtown.

Proponents of the name say it’s a better way to draw attention to the wave of new coffee shops, brew pubs and art enclaves popping up at the southern end of Old Town.

Travis Radevski, owner of Sip Coffee Beer House, and Dan Semenchuk, a downtown advocate and unofficial spokesman for the area, came up with the nickname SoDo (it rhymes with No-No or Go-Go, depending on your point of view), to identify a part of downtown south of Indian School Road.

The problem is the area has been considered Old Town for about as long as the city has been around, critics say.

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“If they want to do SoDo (outside of Old Town), that’s fine,” said JoAnn Handley, manager of the Scottsdale Historical Museum and a longtime association member. “However, Old Town Scottsdale is a separate entity. It has been here and was planted 120 years ago, so we are historic. Some of the buildings are 90-plus years old, so they are historic.”

Handley said she’s ready to “fight tooth and nail” to protect the Old Town name.

Teri Todd, owner of Scottsdale Horse and Carriage and association member, is especially upset about the district possibly being included in SoDo.

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“Herb Drinkwater would not only be rolling in his grave, he’d be shooting up from it if he knew that his historic Old Town where his museum is about to be put is trying to be politically pushed to be SoDo,” she said, referring to the popular mayor who served four terms.

In response to the criticism, Semenchuk said SoDo “was just a thought, it was an idea to start a conversation.”

“We hadn’t even fleshed it out,” he said. “Old Town doesn’t have to be a part of it, but it’s very short-sighted on their part.”

Within the SoDo district, Radevski and Semenchuk envision another Artisan District, which could include the Creative Center of Scottsdale now under construction along the western side of Scottsdale Road just north of Osborn Road.

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The center will be a gathering place for artists and other craftspeople who can rent out and share flexible and collaborative space.

The SoDo name could draw more customers and distinguish the area from other Scottsdale districts, such as the city’s downtown entertainment district south of Camelback Road, an area known more for contemporary bars and nightclubs, Radevski said.

Rick Kidder, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, said the attraction should be “downtown first and then the districts within it.”

“While I applaud any and all efforts to boost the downtown area as a business, tourism and entertainment destination, I do believe that these areas must have distinct and easily identifiable assets that draw people to come there and explore,” he said. “SoDo as an aspiration may be appropriate, but as a current identifier adds more confusion than value.”

Danielle Casey, the city’s economic-development director, said no one has discussed the idea with her.

City Council members have differing views on the idea.

“I think it sounds kind of dumb. I’m not really into the name,” Vice Mayor Guy Phillips said. “I don’t think it really needs a name.”

The idea of identifying a portion of downtown as SoDo “would have to be more of a grassroots effort to see what businesses and citizens would like to see, it should come from the citizens,” Councilman Dennis Robbins said.

“It sure sounds like fun. We could have a contest to name it,” Councilwoman Linda Milhaven said.

Handley argues that the city should stick with what already works. The cache of the West’s Most Western Town “really resonates with foreign visitors,” she said.

“If we got rid of this Old Town Western town, all of us would hurt because the visitors that we get down here is what keeps us going, and we cannot change that,” she said. “This is what drives Scottsdale, whether people like it or not, and we need to preserve this the best way we can. And that’s what the Old Town Merchants Association is doing, is promoting and preserving this Old Town, the West’s Most Western Town.”

George Cavalliere, who operates Cavalliere’s BlackSmith Shop in Old Town, which originally opened in 1909, said if anything, Old Town needs more festivals and marketing to draw more visitors.

“I think it’s got everything it needs here except for advertising,” he said. “Go up to Prescott or Cave Creek on the weekend, it’s like Scottsdale used to be.”

Semenchuk said that some restaurants in Old Town want to be part of SoDo and that “it’s really about the restaurants as opposed to the retail.”

“It’s incredibly territorial down there,” he said, “and it hurts the entire downtown area.”

ON THE BEAT

Edward Gately covers growth and development, and ideas and issues in downtown and south Scottsdale.

How to reach him : ed.gately@arizonarepublic.com

Phone: 480-570-9817

Twitter: @EdwardGately

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/09/23/old-town-merchants-sodo/16086509/