Parker Leavitt said: Competition from other regional shopping malls sent Los Arcos into decline by the mid-1990s, and the subsequent departure of the auto dealers left the area vacant and blighted. A plan to replace Los Arcos with a hockey arena emerged in 1998 but fell apart amid community opposition and mixed views from the City Council.
Competition from newer venues certainly didn’t help Los Arcos, but the real problem was the owner, Steve Ellman, who from well before he purchased it envisioned leveraging some sort of taxpayer subsidy to support whatever he would build. One alternative was a Walmart which would have received significant sales tax rebates.
By 2004, city leaders hatched a plan to use the property for an ASU innovation campus called SkySong, which opened in 2008. Now 95 percent occupied and with more than 1,500 employees, the complex has helped usher in what many see as a new era for the corridor.
Thankfully, Ellman took his traveling carnival to Glendale and left the mess there before being ridden out of town on a bankruptcy rail. But he financed that incursion by snookering then-mayor Mary Manross and an equally-gullible city council majority into buying the Los Arcos property from him for double its appraised value.
The ASU tie-in that was such a selling point was just another of Michael Crow’s educational-empire-building efforts. Even worse, the developer–Sharon Harper’s Plaza Cos.–was the primary beneficiary of the ASU brand (via development arm “ASU Foundation”…not to be confused with the educational institution) in leveraging a 99-year contract with the city.
And worst of all, city councils since (including many current members and incumbents…remember we have an election coming up) have approved FIVE amendments to that original agreement, all vastly lopsided to the benefit of Sharon Harper.
So, “usher in a new era for the [McDowell Road] corridor?” Not really. SkySong is a taxpayer-subsidized office building. No wonder it’s full.