A battle over a new tower in Phoenix’s upscale Kierland neighborhood is currently brewing.

As usual, much of the zoning fight is over height.

Neighbors of a hotel/condominium/retail high-rise proposed by DMB Development in the popular area don’t want the new building higher than others nearby.

Some of the opponents will live in one of four Optima Kierland residential towers under construction and would be close neighbors of the new building at Scottsdale Road and East Kierland Boulevard. 

Others against the new development live in other homes in the Kierland area and are concerned about the amount of traffic another big development would bring. 

“We aren’t anti-development, but if they keep building towers, Scottsdale Road is going to have a canyon effect,” said Amy Satterfield, who has lived in a home in the area for 19 years.

Kierland is physically in Phoenix but carries a Scottsdale address.

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Showing up to fight the tower

Satterfield and other neighbors of the proposed high-rise formed the Kierland Community Alliance to fight the new development.

About 150 from the group showed up at a Paradise Village Planning Committee meeting a few weeks ago to show their opposition.

“Land-use changes make for some of the most combative meetings in Arizona,” said real-estate analyst Mark Stapp, director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at Arizona State University. “People are very emotional and opinionated when it comes to their property and what a zoning change might mean for their values.”

He disagrees that a zoning change for the DMB site will lead to many other high-rises all along Scottsdale Road.

“Kierland has become one of the Valley’s higher-density growth nodes,” he said. “The area’s residents may not like that, but it has already happened.”

Taller, thinner vs. shorter, wider

In the new Kierland tower case, the fight is basically over 76 feet — or six stories.

Scottsdale-based developer DMB has proposed two plans for a tower to go up on the almost two-acre La Maison furniture store site.

One would be 120 feet high, or about 10 to 12 stories, about the same height as the Optima condo towers nearby and the Westin Kierland Resort a few blocks away.

The second plan calls for a tower 196 feet high, with at least 16 floors. Both would have as many as 272 condos and 210 hotel rooms.  

The taller building would be thinner and take up less land, while the shorter building would fill more of the parcel.

Shorter and less dense

With a 9 to 5 vote, the Village Planning Committee recommended a 120-foot tower with 100 fewer condo or hotel units and more underground parking.

DMB bought 10 acres in Kierland two decades ago, before much of the area developed. It sold the Optima towers’ developer the sites for those towers last year.

Karrin Taylor Robson, president of Arizona Strategies and DMB’s zoning attorney, said the higher 196-foot tower was proposed to open up more views

“DMB has owned the land for a while and is not in a rush. It can wait for the best use for the site,” said Taylor Robson. “The good news is our project made it out of the Village Committee on its merits.”

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A win for the neighborhood?

Zoning attorney Nick Wood, who is working with the Kierland Optima condo project, called the Planning Committee’s decision a win for the neighborhood.

“Clearly village committee members saw through the irresponsible proposal submitted by the applicant,” said Wood of the law firm Snell & Wilmer.

Wayne Mailloux, a 69-year-old retired Pepsico executive who is buying a couple of condos to combine them for a bigger home in one of the Optima towers, said even 120 feet is too high for the site where the tower is proposed.

“I was in shock when I first saw the plan for that small parcel,” said Mailloux, who is part of the Kierland group fighting it and spoke at the planning meeting.

Taylor Robson said the developer of the Optima towers has always been aware DMB would likely build a tower on the site and was part of talks for a preliminary plan for 180 feet last year.


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Not a done deal

The Phoenix Planning Commission will next hear the case on Aug. 2, and it doesn’t have to recommend what the Village Commission proposed.

The case then could go to the Phoenix City Council for a vote on Sept. 5. The council has the final say.

History of high-rise battles

In 2004, now-President Donald Trump proposed a 200-foot-tall tower for the Biltmore area, near 24th Street and Camelback.

Neighbors fought the proposed tower, and the Phoenix City Council voted against the necessary zoning to build that high.

There is no Trump tower in metro Phoenix.

But Biltmore-area neighbors would have accepted a tower, closer to the the same height as other high-rises at that busy intersection.

Arizona Sen. John McCain owns a condo in a tower in the area that was built after the Trump project failed. That tower is about 140 feet high and didn’t spark a contentious zoning battle.


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