John Berry, Scottsdale Development Attorney

Dan Nowicki, Scottsdale Republic

John Berry is the No. 1 name in downtown Scottsdale redevelopment. He’s the local attorney who more often than not represents the folks behind the highest-profile projects, from the Scottsdale Waterfront to Optima Camelview Village to the W Hotel.

Here are a few of Berry’s thoughts on revitalizing downtown Scottsdale in the 21st century:

Is it easier to get big downtown projects approved now? Has the climate changed?

High-quality projects are always embraced better by the community than projects that aren’t sensitive to the history and the community. One of the things that we’ve been very successful at, and has been important to me, is working with the neighbors.

Has it gotten easier?

No. I just think there is a real emphasis on quality, and there is a real emphasis on doing your homework upfront.

How about working with the city?

I think there has been a paradigm shift there. (City Manager) Jan Dolan and (deputy city manager) Ed Gawf, those two in particular, have really tried to inoculate staff with a sense of encouraging quality development. They don’t have to be the megaprojects that we have always considered to be critical for downtown. Doing several small projects is a lot better for the downtown than, in some instances, one major project. It takes a while for that to filter down from the leadership into the trenches where staff is doing the work, but it’s getting there.

Is the council moving away from the old idea of downtown, the faux Western stuff, to contemporary-designed projects such as Optima Camelview Village?

The Optima project is a little different. One of the things we all — and I include me in this — do is make the mistake of thinking of downtown Scottsdale as monolithic. Scottsdale’s downtown is more than 700 acres, and it is larger than a lot of major cities’ downtowns. You can’t make glittering generalities about downtown. Protect the specialty areas: Old Town, Main Street, Fifth
Avenue. Protect their historic integrity. Keep the low heights. To have the faux Western or classical Scottsdale architecture is critical. If you bulldoze that, and lose that, you lose a lot of the essence of that part of downtown.

But the Optima site, where you have the Finova building, is about as far from (traditional) downtown Scottsdale as you can get.

Optima is more contemporary and in the context made a lot of sense. Would that make sense at the Waterfront site? I don’t think so. Would that make sense down by the hospital? I don’t think so.