Airpark without an Airport?

Below you will see reproduced a column that appeared in Saturday’s Scottsdale Republic, authored by Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Kidder.

In his column, Mr. Kidder uses the word “airport” only once as a geographic reference. In doing so, Mr. Kidder is ignoring the obvious fact that the Airpark exists because of the Airport and its millions of dollars of economic impact to the city.

Mr. Kidder never once references Scottsdale’s General Plan, which is the master land use policy document of the City of Scottsdale. The General Plan was written by the citizens and ratified by vote of the citizens, and it contains the vision of the citizens for the future growth and development of Scottsdale.

Mr. Kidder also never even references the citizens. Clearly, as Councilman Bob Littlefield often states, “There IS plan for Scottsdale. It just doesn’t include YOU.”

It is important to recognize that the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce has become a lobbying tool of the development industry. Mr. Kidder’s vision is representative of those who seek profit by trading on our quality of life as Scottsdale residents, visitors, and small business owners.

This viewpoint is one of short-term gain rather than long-term sustainability, because when we sell off our quality of life we also sell off the thing that makes possible our most important industry: Tourism.

As regards the Scottsdale Airport, some of our most important and well-heeled tourists come to our town via this portal. It is not uncommon to see a billion dollar’s worth of very fast hardware parked on the ramp during the TPC Open, the Barrett-Jackson auto auction, or major sporting events.

Scottsdale Airport MUST be protected from residential encroachment. Apartments in the Airpark (a completely incompatible use, which violates the fundamental purpose of zoning) is a goal of the Chamber that is not stated in this column.

The Airpark represents the only industrial-zoned land in the entire city, and it was designed to be a buffer between Airport and surrounding residences.

The businesses which Mr. Kidder dismisses in his column have contributed and continue to contribute millions of dollars of tax revenue to the City. They have a right to continue to exist and thrive in and because of our well-planned Airpark.

Here’s Kidder’s column:

Airpark’s Organic Growth Will Continue, from the Scottsdale Republic, Saturday 9 June 2012

Fourth of seven parts

By Rick Kidder

While no one could have guessed a decade ago that the Scottsdale Airpark would become the second-largest business center in the state, looking at the future is equally challenging.

That said, I am never at a loss for an opinion, and the future of the Airpark is something near and dear to my heart.

In 2022, Arizona will once again be in the midst of a great resurgence in population growth, diversity and the attraction of talent. The Airpark will have a very different look.

On the Phoenix side, mid-rise buildings will frame the border between our two cities. State land will have been swallowed for new development and the city will be continuing its ongoing debate internally about quality of life vs. development.

The eastern side of the airport, today the home to many small businesses and outdated uses, will have been revitalized completely.

Gone will be the 1960s and 1970s light-manufacturing buildings that now house small businesses, many of which are already in transition from those uses to retail and services companies. [Emphasis added]

The loop road will have changed the face of the area, made land assemblage more attractive and allowed for attraction of additional regional business services companies as well as the expansion of existing firms from which home-grown Fortune 500 companies can prosper.

What made the Airpark such a great success will continue to be the reason that it thrives.

Scottsdale’s Airpark, much-studied and largely unsuccessfully emulated by cities all over the world, grew and developed despite [emphasis added] a lack of infrastructure, a lack of definable centers, a lack of services essential to businesses and the necessary importation of a vast majority of its workforce.

It grew because the principal decision makers who bought the land or leased the space had a desire to live in Scottsdale, and by 2022 that will still be the case — if, as a community, we settle on a consensus about what balanced growth should look like in the years to come. [The 2001 General Plan already addresses these issues, but the Chamber wishes to re-write the Plan]

By 2022 the Airpark will have grown to the point where it will no longer be referred to simply as the Airpark. The Airpark will actually be divided into districts, each with a distinct name and identity, not unlike the far smaller downtown Scottsdale.

Businesses will refer to themselves as within the Perimeter District, the Spire District, the Technology District or the WestWorld District, and over time those districts will begin to develop characters of their own that will reflect their primary uses.

Getting into, around and out of the Airpark will be a greater challenge unless the city embraces transportation solutions that complement the freeway system and surface roads. Whether we end up with mass transit — perhaps even fixed rail — up Loop 101 connecting to a jitney system to get people from district to district within the Airpark, or new technologies present themselves, the biggest challenge the Airpark will continue to face is its own success.

We will always import the majority of our workforce, and we are not alone in our growth. The 101 corridor will fill in from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to Desert Ridge and beyond, and congestion will challenge this community like never before.

Pinal County, the far East and West valleys will emerge as the metro area’s San Fernando Valley, with commuters coming to the Airpark from far and wide to work from locations where housing is more affordable. Airpark businesses will compete with more local options for talent, and, as always, the cost of doing business in Scottsdale will exceed that of other communities.

Scottsdale will not be able to rest on its laurels if the Airpark is to remain the incredibly vibrant employment center it is today. This is a unique community, one of a handful worldwide that is in itself a brand. We must all work together to polish that brand, learn how to move forward together toward a prosperous and balanced future.

Rick Kidder is president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

Scottsdale, 2022

What should Scottsdale look like a decade from now? What will it take to get there? We asked leaders in a variety of areas to offer their thoughts on what the future holds. A seven-part series continues today with a look at the Airpark.

We’re interested in your thoughts, too. Please read and respond to the ideas raised in this series. Send your letters to

Wednesday: Downtown.

Today: The McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Friday: McDowell Road.

Today: Scottsdale Airpark.

June 13: Tourism.

June 14: The equestrian community.

June 15: Arts and culture.

Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 10:44 AM

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