Desert Waterfront Property – The Scottsdale Renaissance

Ever since Scottsdale Arizona decided to lavish its ‘waterfront’ with time and attention, the West’s most Western town has been experiencing a renaissance. In the works since the late 80s, Scottsdale’s multi-million dollar plan to revitalize the historic canal that runs through it, is finally coming of age.


The 50 mile-long canal that cuts through Scottsdale’s downtown core was built in the late 1800s for irrigation and flood control. Strictly utilitarian, it wasn’t until the Waterfront revitalization project began to pick up speed that residents realized the potential the water-filled concrete ditch in the center of town offered them. Lined with empty lots and low-rent retail as recently as 1996, by one account all that was going on at the corner of Scottsdale and Camelback roads back then was a Christmas tree lot in December.

But times change. The banks of the once desolate waterway have since sprouted 500 shops, 75 restaurants, 50 salons and spas, miles of biking and jogging trails, a public amphitheater, and hundreds of condos, townhouses and lofts that sell out almost as quickly as they’re built.


Similar to San Antonio’s successful River Walk, the Scottsdale Waterfront vision eschews cars and adores pedestrians. The project covers 11.3 acres and successfully links the Scottsdale Fashion Square to Old Town Scottsdale and the arts district. The city’s Civic Center and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art are both within walking distance and a five million dollar pedestrian bridge now spans the canal. Residents that tire of walking can always hop onto one of Scottsdale’s free downtown trolleys to get where they’re going.

By making good use of the prime land they have in the downtown area, Scottsdale has created an invaluable resource for its residents. Primarily, they’ve done this by creating a “walkable” community.

A walkable community is just what it sounds like – a place where you can walk. It has sidewalks and safe places, parks and green spaces, benches to sit on and places to visit that you can get to within five minutes – on foot. Though it’s an ancient concept that Europeans take for granted, in America it runs contrary to the prevailing big box mentality and trends in suburban development. Too bad for us. According to Dan Burden, some of the offshoots of designing a community for pedestrians as opposed to cars, are the exact same things we all typically look for in a great community.

“Walkability is the ability to associate with others, the provision of your basic needs within a five minute walk and the accommodation of the disabled, children and seniors,” Burden told Scottsdale residents during a public lecture in 2000. “A walkable community has the Five Golden Elements – Security, Convenience, Efficiency, Comfort, and Welcome. ”
It also produces healthier, more active and involved citizens and opportunities for both affordable housing and highly sought after luxury homes. No matter who you are, a walkable community is a desirable community.


Scottsdale has evidently taken Burden’s advice to heart and is now steadily reaping the benefits. Since 2003, public and private investors have poured more than 3.1 billion dollars into downtown development. Strong leadership and community involvement have given the city momentum and vision that show no signs of abating. The population is growing and real estate prices slowly rise even while the rest of the country experiences a downturn. Everything’s on the upswing. For the real estate market in Scottsdale this is great news but for the people who call it home, it’s even better.