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Preserving an illustration of a way of life at Scottsdale City Hall

Scottsdale City Hall historic preservation moves forward at City Council
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Some might say if you don’t know where you have been you can’t know where you are going but at Scottsdale City Hall elected leaders are working to preserve the original — iconic — Scottsdale Civic Center.

Earlier this month, Scottsdale City Council formerly adopted a zoning district map amendment and a historic preservation case to retain the community’s original vision for Scottsdale City Hall and preserve one of Arizona’s most prominent public spaces, city officials contend.

Public spaces like City Hall, the public library and Center for the Performing Arts are special to those who grew up in Scottsdale — and for those who call the ‘West’s Most Western Town’ home today.

From a technical standpoint, city officials remind no structural changes are proposed or underway at Scottsdale Civic Center rather the creation of formal zoning designations identifying the location as ‘historical’ will establish City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., as a bona fide landmark serving to protect and preserve the future of the community.

Municipal documents show since last summer City Hall leaders have been making formal preparations to propose Scottsdale City Hall as a historic landmark providing future generations examples of brick-and-mortar to admire the leaders who came before them.

Scottsdale buildings and architectural accouterments Bennie Gonzales built as a landmark of the community’s past was originally constructed in 1968 and is a significant example of ‘Pueblo Revival’ architectural style, experts agree.

Of Note: The open chamber in City Hall, patterned after the Hopi Indians’ ceremonial Kiva, was a symbolic nod to Native American culture and accessible government.

Scottsdale Councilman Tom Durman told the Arizona Digital Free Press he thinks the goal is to let the outside world now of the special space known today as the Scottsdale ‘Civic Center’ to locals and visitors alike.

“In my opinion, the main goal is to publicize the unique character of City Hall and to bring the public recognition it deserves,” he said pointing out a key policy now part of the zoning designation of the land on which the Civic Center stands.

“The main benefit is to protect its character. I don’t think anyone would do anything that would interfere with its unique identity, but this action ensures that any renovations and repairs will match its current architecture.”

Scottsdale Planning Manager Adam Yaron says the formal historic designations enshrines ideas set forth in the voter-ratified General Plan 2035 document, which serves as the guiding document for all things development within municipal bounds.

“A goal of Scottsdale General Plan 2035 is to identify and protect Scottsdale’s historic, archeological and cultural resources and sustain community character,” he said of the municipal mechanism in play. “The Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan reinforces the idea that to strengthen and enhance Old Town’s character, it’s important to protect prominent historic resources. This supports both of those plans.”

Scottsdale Planning Manager Adam Yaron says the formal historic designations enshrines ideas set forth in the voter-ratified General Plan 2035 document. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Preserving an illustration of a way of life at Scottsdale City Hall

The Scottsdale Daily Beat reached out to Mr. Yaron to better understand some of the zoning stipulations and key points for residents to understand about the local preservation effort afoot. This is what he had to say:

*What are the goals of the Scottsdale City Council in adopting a zoning district map amendment and a historic preservation case for Scottsdale City Hall?

The historic property zoning overlay district is intended to protect and enhance the cultural, historical, social or archaeological heritage of the city. The hp district encourages the retention of historic resources by keeping them in active use in their original appearance, setting, and placement. To this end, the purpose of the zoning district map amendment is applying the historic property zoning overlay district to city hall is to promote and celebrate public awareness of city hall as a focal point in Scottsdale’s heritage; designate city hall as a significant local resource; and assist in protecting, preserving and enhancing city hall into the future.

A view of the stained glass in the roof of the Scottsdale Kiva Auditorium space where the important matters of the day are discussed. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
*How does the rezoning and historical designation of Scottsdale City Hall protect and preserve it into the future?

Rezoning the site to include the historic property zoning overlay means that with such adoption will be standards to preserve the site outlined within a historic designation report and historic preservation plan. The plan will ensure that the community will preserve the character-defining features of the building and to allow the building to visually communicate its significance over time. Although no alterations were proposed to the building with this new designation, should there be any needed in the future, any proposal will be vetted against the newly adopted plan and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Proposed alterations to the building will be assessed for their physical impact upon those character-defining features of the building.

*What are the architectural features of Scottsdale City Hall that make it a significant local resource?

The major points of significance for Scottsdale City Hall include:

  • Scottsdale City Hall is over 50 years of age (1968).
  • Meets the criteria established by the City’s Zoning Ordinance as a Historic Landmark as a public, government building that is extant and centrally located in the city’s civic center — City Hall has become a defining feature for the community of Scottsdale.
  • Is a historically significant building that is a representative example of the overall aesthetic and character of the city — encapsulating the blend of modern design concepts with southwest regional architectural elements that is indicative of the development of Scottsdale during the second half of the 20th century.
  • Prime example of a work by master architect Bennie Gonzales.

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