Paradise Valley begins to dissect Lincoln and Scottsdale development rejuvenation

Paradise Valley leaders gathered at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, on May 23 to begin deliberations on projects near Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Plans for a future resort, the redevelopment of a medical plaza and a 90-minute discussion appears to be the precipice of revitalization at the corner of Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road.

Paradise Valley Town Council hosted a study session discussion Thursday, May 23 that included two Statement of Direction topics.

The first is for a major special use permit amendment for Lincoln Medical Plaza, 7125 E. Lincoln Drive. The second is a major special use permit amendment for SmokeTree Resort, 7101 E. Lincoln Drive.

The discussions — pioneered by Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner, as Mayor Michael Collins was absent from the meeting — treaded around the SOD, but ultimately kept coming back to the resolution that more information is needed to look at the area as a whole.

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace said throughout the meeting she wanted additional information on the projects, and the plans for the areas.

“We’ve got to look at the big picture, we can’t just be using that microscope,” Ms. Pace said.

Councilwoman Julie Pace (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“What is the plan for this area and how does it impact where we’re going?”

Armed with pens, paper and a keen interest local officials and real estate pros filled nearly ever empty seat in the study session room within Town Hall at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

In addition to redevelopment of the Lincoln Medical Plaza and the SmokeTree Resort — which are adjacent properties on the south side of Lincoln Drive — the future resort and residential property, Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley is directly across the street, on the north side of Lincoln Drive.

While the plans of each project were discussed separately, to some degree, the council agreed they needed to look at things with a wider lens.

Of particular concern to the council was the heights of all of these buildings, the density impact and concern of future light signals near Quail Run Road.

In addition, it was revealed the abutting AJ’s Fine Grocery property had been sold recently, and future plans were not known for that property, while SmokeTree Resort has proposed density levels not seen before in the Town of Paradise Valley.

A Statement of Direction is a set of guidelines from the council to the Planning Commission to guide them as they begin to oversee projects and developments.

The council voted to meet in executive session for less than 30 minutes before discussing the projects.

An artist rendering of the proposed Lincoln Medical Plaza. (submitted graphic)

Lincoln Medical Plaza

The medical plaza plans show a redevelopment in roughly the same area it sits, but town staff says there are several aspects of the proposed project that don’t meet the town’s special use permit guidelines or may be in conflict with several policies of the General Plan.

Of particular concern to staff is the proposed height, roadway dedication and entrance/exit, and the depth of the perimeter landscapes.

The property, which most recently added a pharmacy and an urgent care center in 2011, plans to be a complete demolition, town staff says, and instead of individual office suites, the medical building will be for a single tenant. It is still planned to be used for a medical office.

The medical facility’s proposed SUP amendment included a 36,000-square-foot, two-story, 36-foot high structure. The existing height is 24-feet with some portion to mechanical screening at 27 feet.

The proposed setbacks are 67 feet in the front yard, but with full right-of-way — sidewalks, natural areas along streets, etc. — dedication it would be 35 feet, documents show. The existing structure is setback 62-feet with the full right-of-way dedication.

“It would help to have some consistency when we’re looking at heights so we know what we’re looking at. From one applicant to another, SUP to another, which one was measured from finished floor or natural grade?” Councilman Scott Moore said during the meeting.

Councilman Paul Dembow compared the medical plaza to hillside houses, saying they want to create too unique of a plot of land.

“That’s why I think it’s really important to have more information next week,” Mr. Dembow said, noting the unique medical plaza site.

Mr. Bien-Willner says the town officials want to encourage redevelopment within their municipality.

“From a logical standpoint, me looking at it from the shoes of the applicant, I think it would be a shame if you were to tell (them) ‘hey you can’t bulldoze this place and put back a much nicer version of what was there before,’” he said.

“Everyone around there has an expectation of that height, that setback, that configuration. I think they’re roughly trying to stay to that, the less these other factors come in to play.”

Councilman David Sherf offered direction to staff, noting a connection between the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa.

“I heard, there’s been discussion of access back to Andaz, has that been — I don’t see that any place in here — I didn’t know if the applicant has talked about that, or if council has talked about that, but I would certainly like to encourage that,” Mr. Sherf said. “That would give us six resorts on Lincoln. We’d be resort row. I think it’d be great for the town.”

The council is expected to discuss part two of the statement of direction on May 31, with tentative action on June 14. The plans would then begin Planning Commission purview.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed SmokeTree Resort. (submitted graphic)

SmokeTree Resort

Earlier this year the legacy SmokeTree Resort changed hands for a reported $10 million and new ownership is eying a new chapter for the boutique resort on the edge of town.

The original resort, which was established in 1966 and maintained in perpetuity, is now under the guise of a partnership between Phoenix-based Geneva Holdings and Scottsdale-based Ventana Hotels and Resorts.

It reportedly utilizes only 23 of its 32 guest rooms currently, town documents show, stating the buildings and condition is essentially the same since 1969.

The applicant is seeking the statement of direction for the June 14 Town Council meeting, to allow the Planning Commission to discuss the application requesting during the summer, town staff’s narrative states.

The submitted plans call for a three-story resort with 150 traditional hotel guest room keys, and 30 resort residential units. The density adds up to 34 units per acre, with a proposed lot coverage of 34 percent.

Also included on the plans is a pool, a market, restaurant and clubhouse.

Abutting the SmokeTree property to the west is Quail Run Road, a paved road that appears to be more of an alleyway near the resort, and continues south near Kiva Elementary School.

“We kind of need to take a little step back, with the Ritz project we’ll be improving Lincoln from Mockingbird to the town boarder, and Lincoln is a major arterial,” engineer Paul Mood told the council of traffic and future light signals.

“So, our consultant is currently looking for direction, how do we set up the medians on Lincoln? It’s pretty safe to say the two proposals — SmokeTree and Lincoln Medical — are showing total left-in, left-out access of their entries and that realistically probably won’t happen.”

Mr. Mood says one of their comments was to have the two properties work together for ingress and egress.

“At the south end of their properties, if they could have a joint drive-mile that goes over to Quail Run and comes out at a traffic signal, and Quail Run at least improves down to the southern boarder of SmokeTree. That would give a left-in, left-out access,” he said. “Again, properties to the west of Quail Run are in a future development area.”

Mr. Mood says if the town doesn’t get the right-of-way and improve the road, then it limits future development for the west side of the pavement.

Councilman Moore noted that the proposed driveways, with a light signal, doesn’t work, while councilman Dembow brought up the safety aspect of the intersection or traffic pattern, saying that “suicide left turns” are just a bad design.

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner at a recent Paradise Valley Town Council meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Mr. Bien-Willner said he didn’t feel like he had enough information to evaluate and give direction on Quail Run Road.

“Does anyone feel like they have enough information to actually evaluate this right now? Because I certainly don’t,” he said.

Mr. Bien-Willner followed up on his comment, noting that more information on the future workings of the area is needed to make the correct decisions.

“We’re saying on the one hand, less height, probably less density but then we’re going to have to make a decision if we’re going to require more right of way,” he explained.

“I don’t think we can make an educated decision on that until we understand better how this is ultimately supposed to function.”

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at or follow her on Twitter at

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