The largest proposed project in the Downtown/Midtown Phoenix area is moving forward.
In June 2019, the Phoenix City Council approved the developer’s rezoning request, eliminating several conflicting zoning overlays and moving it to WU-Walkable Urban. More recently in February, the Pivotal Group received approval for several variance requests that place the walkability of the property in question, at least on paper. Typically, ‘Walkable’ development means that storefronts are immediately accessible from the public sidewalk. Indeed, the Walkable Urban code requires that buildings be set back no more than 12 feet from the sidewalk and have a minimum of 70% of building frontage, but the variances approved in February allow setbacks of as much as 80 feet, and as little as 39% building frontage along Indian School Road.
While significant variances might be a bit too easy to get (that’s a topic for a different post), the updated project plans are much more pedestrian-friendly than the originals. For one, the massive wall that would’ve accompanied pedestrians along the length of both street frontages is gone, replaced with plenty of public space, including a small park along Central Ave. A new building included in the plans also includes ground-floor retail and a cinema.
Even if the project isn’t an urbanist dream, it still represents a major step forward for Midtown Phoenix, an area that hasn’t seen any high-rise development in quite some time due in equal parts, more or less, to past neighborhood resistance and the 2008 economic downtown. We’ve yet to see if this project will spur additional high-rise development along the corridor, and the project itself may be in some danger due to what is sure to be a severe economic hit due to the COVID-19 mass quarantine, but only time will tell. According to the stipulations on the zoning variance, Pivotal has until February 2021 to apply and pay for building permits.