Is Scottsdale getting too crowded?

The last time there were this many apartments or condos being built in Scottsdale, John F. Kennedy was president and “Beatlemania” was sweeping the nation.

Permits for more than 4,000 multi-family residential units have been approved in Scottsdale since the start of 2013, a larger number than in the previous nine years combined, according to a city database.

Many of those mid- and high-rise projects are under construction or have recently opened, while others are still in the planning phase. Scottsdale estimates about 2.6 residents for each multi-family unit, so the latest surge in construction could house more than 10,000 residents.

While the building boom is not entirely unprecedented, you’d likely have to look back to the 1950s and 1960s to find a similar surge in multi-family development, Scottsdale planner Adam Yaron said.

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At that time, Scottsdale’s growth mirrored state and regional trends, which were influenced by a post-war population boom, new job growth, the availability of cheap land and a prosperous lending industry, Yaron said. An influx of “winter visitors” who wanted to enjoy the mild climate of the West also contributed to the rise..

The major difference in today’s growth, Yaron said, is that the new construction is primarily happening at “infill” locations — pockets of vacant land surrounded by existing development.

There are clear benefits that come with the new housing, like a surge in revenue from construction permits and greater population density to support businesses. Retail follows rooftops, city planners often say.

But for some residents, higher-density development can also bring major headaches like noise and traffic. Many feel the influx of new residents is putting a squeeze on Scottsdale’s roadways.

“It’s hard for people to get in and out of streets,” south Scottsdale resident Nancy Cantor said. “It’s extremely noisy. It never used to be like this.”

Cantor is head of the 400-member Scottsdale Coalition, a group that advocates for “responsible development and managed growth.” She’s recently seen a rise in the number of people wanting to get involved in the coalition, with traffic often cited as a significantly important issue.

“They’re looking at the high rises and how they are positioned in the community,” Cantor said. “There’s concern about how much, how fast and what the city has in place to address it.”

Copper Phillips, a resident-activist in north Scottsdale, said a new apartment complex under construction near her has “obliterated the skyline” and will dump traffic onto already-busy roads. Cars stack up for about a half mile at the intersection of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak roads during rush hour, she said.

“I’ve started to see some craziness in driving because people are getting frustrated,” Phillips said. “I just about lose my mind when I have to go downtown.”

Scottsdale Transportation Director Paul Basha said his department has received general complaints from the public about multi-family developments. The city typically responds by explaining that new residential construction leads to an increase in traffic volume but not necessarily congestion.

Nationally, a typical single-family home generates about 10 vehicle trips per day, compared to about six trips for a multi-family home, Basha said. Since there are obviously more homes per acre in an apartment complex than in a single-family neighborhood, the multi-family development indeed produces more traffic overall, he said.

On the other hand, congestion is reduced when people are driving shorter distances, which seems to be happening in Scottsdale as residents are living closer to work, entertainment and services, Basha said.

In 1996, the average Scottsdale resident drove nearly 22 miles each day, but that figure has dropped to about 17 miles in 2012, Basha said. The national average is about 15 to 20 miles per person each day on surface streets.

City statistics actually show overall traffic volume is down in many parts of Scottsdale, and there are roughly 500,000 fewer cars on the road each day now than in 2006.

Several major intersections — including Scottsdale/Indian School roads and Scottsdale/McDowell roads — have seen traffic counts fall by about 5 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to city data. Others — Hayden/McDowell roads and Scottsdale/Bell roads — have seen traffic increase over that period.

So, is Scottsdale becoming too crowded?

“That is an issue that many in southern Scottsdale are concerned about,” Cantor said. “Packing people into smaller confined living space gives rise to some problems Scottsdale has never had to deal with.”

New multi-family developments in Scottsdale

Several apartment or condo complexes have opened or are under construction in Scottsdale. Here’s a look at some of the major ones:

Optima Sonoran Village

The eye-catching luxury apartment complex near 68th Street and Camelback Road welcomed its first residents in 2013 and had a second phase open late last year. The 10-acre property has indoor basketball and racquetball courts, an indoor lap pool and a yoga studio, a zero-edge outdoor pool and dog park. A third phase is underway.

SkySong Apartments

A 325-unit community built as part of the mixed-use SkySong development at Scottsdale and McDowell roads, the final phase opened in the first half of 2014. SkySong also includes offices and retail elements and is developed by Plaza Companies in partnership with Arizona State University and the city of Scottsdale.

San Travesia

One of the biggest new communities currently in development, San Travesia is a 572-unit apartment complex at Scottsdale Road and 74th Street, just east of SkySong. Spread across 29 acres, the property features a yoga studio, poolside volleyball court and outdoor living rooms. Much of the complex remains under construction, but leasing has begun on the first units.

Broadstone Waterfront

A 259-unit apartment complex in the heart of Scottsdale’s Waterfront district opened in July 2014 and is scheduled to finish construction this June. Broadstone Waterfront sits adjacent to the Nordstrom wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square and is within walking distance of the Old Town art galleries, shops and restaurants.

Broadstone Lincoln

The first residents at this 264-unit community moved in around November 2013, and construction wrapped up last April. The apartment complex sits near the Scottsdale-Paradise Valley border at Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive, near the site of a planned Ritz-Carlton resort.

The Stetson

A 316-unit apartment complex on the east side of downtown Scottsdale, the Stetson plans to open near the entertainment district’s bars and nightclubs by this summer. The community at Stetson Drive and Civic Center Plaza is geared toward active, entertainment-driven residents.

Diamante

Meritage Homes is building more than 100 townhomes near Thomas Road and 68th Street, southwest of the downtown area and near the Scottsdale-Phoenix border. Retail and warehouse buildings on the property were demolished to make way for the new complex.

Scottsdale Quarter

A Mark-Taylor luxury apartment complex is under construction at the northeastern corner of the Scottsdale Quarter mixed-use development, near Scottsdale Road and Greenway Hayden Loop. The community will include 275 units, with the first residents set to move in early this summer.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2015/02/09/scottsdale-getting-crowded/23127293/