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Scottsdale Airpark booming with urban life, 55,000 jobs

A record number of businesses and employees have moved into Scottsdale’s bustling Airpark corridor, which is emerging as a one of the Phoenix area’s major hubs for urban growth, according to a new report from Colliers International.

More than 55,000 employees work for about 3,000 companies within the Scottsdale Airpark area, which covers about 5 square miles in north Scottsdale and Phoenix’s Kierland neighborhood. The Airpark added nearly 1,200 jobs over the past year and more than 7,000 jobssince the height of the recession in December 2009, according to Colliers.

The previous record for jobs in the Scottsdale Airpark area was set in 2014 at 54,100, the report said. There were also 2,950 companies in the area last year.

The annual report, compiled by Jim Keeley, founding partner of Colliers’ Scottsdale office, also shows significant improvement in vacancy rates, land sales and property values over the past several years. Colliers is among the real-estate firms that broker deals in the Airpark and other parts of the Valley.

Although Airpark office space was selling for about $50 to $70 per square foot in 2011, tenants are paying closer to $150 or even $200 per square foot now, Keeley said. He expects rates to continue climbing over the next two or three years toward the prerecession peak of around $270 to $300.

Land sales totaled $94.8 million for about 89 acres in 2015, up from $46.7 million for about 38 acres the previous year, according to Colliers.

Investment from GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and global investment firm Vanguard helped the Airpark build on that momentum in 2015, Keeley said.

His Colliers report detailed several key announcements for the area last year, including:

  • Parsons opened the world’s largest Harley-Davidson dealership in November at Hayden Road and Northsight Boulevard. The dealership features a 95-seat chapel for weddings and a movie theater.
  • Vanguard added 600 employees while expanding to fill a 150,000-square-foot building near Pima Road and Raintree Drive.
  • American Girl opened its only Arizona retail store, which includes a 25-seat bistro, at Scottsdale Quarter in August. The store is one of only 20 in the U.S.

Urban living arrives, transit needed

Residential towers have begun to spring up among the Airpark’s corporate offices and shopping centers as young professionals pursue a more urban lifestyle within walking distance of their workplaces.

Crescent Communities recently opened 275 high-end apartments at Scottsdale Quarter, and another 220 luxury condos are under construction across Scottsdale Road at Optima Kierland.

Liv North Scottsdale built 240 apartments just north of Scottsdale Quarter in 2014, and a 282-unit complex called Sunrise Commons is planned to replace a former car dealership on Hayden Road.

“I think society is into enjoying urban living,” Keeley said. “The Millennials, that next generation of working people, they have a different mind-set.”

With the arrival of more “transit-oriented development” at Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons comes the need for more public-transit options, Keeley said. A city proposal to add trolley service in the Airpark would help, but Keeley would like to see light rail come up through Scottsdale from the south.

“There’s a definite need for improvement,” Keeley said. “I think if you look around the country at other employment bases that are evolving, you need that type of alternative.”

A new transportation plan up for City Council consideration this year includes three potential rail routes through Scottsdale, including two that would end near Scottsdale Fashion Square mall. The plan also includes a new bus route with non-stop service between the Airpark and Fashion Square.

If approved by the council, Airpark trolley service could start in April 2018, and the bus service could start in October 2019, according to city officials.

A cornucopia of industries

Although some airport commerce parks trend more toward heavy industry and warehousing, the area surrounding Scottsdale Airport features a higher concentration of corporate office space, including several regional and national headquarters.

JDA Software announced plans last year to move its headquarters to two floors of a new six-story office building opening at Scottsdale Quarter. Taser International maintains its main offices 2 miles to the northeast, and New Zealand-based Orion Health picked the Scottsdale Airpark in 2014 for its North American headquarters and about 500 jobs.

In all, there are 130 business categories represented within the Airpark, ranging from aerospace to hospitality, according to Colliers.

The area ranks among the largest employment centers in the Phoenix area and is uniquely located to draw employees from the West Valley, Phoenix, Scottsdale and the Southeast Valley, Scottsdale Economic Development Director Danielle Casey said.

“The top thing that everybody has been talking about in the last several years is that talent is the biggest issue,” Casey said. “That’s one of the things going for us in the Airpark. It can pull from pretty much all nodes, which is very advantageous when you are looking at a dispersed talent pool.”

Airport grows busier

Along with the growth has come a spike in air traffic at Scottsdale Airport, which in 2015 surged to No. 21 among the nation’s busiest general-aviation airports. When you account for major airlines, which don’t have a presence in Scottsdale, and military operations, the airport ranks No. 76 nationally, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol maintains a daily presence at Scottsdale Airport, which boosts its appeal to international travelers and businesses, Casey said.

The FAA reported about 77,300 general-aviation takeoffs and landings at Scottsdale Airport last year, up from about 74,700 flights in 2014 and 69,800 in 2010. General-aviation traffic reflects private flights to and from other airports.

The airport reported more than 157,000 takeoffs and landings overall in 2015.

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