Arizona Republic – $15.4 mil lakeshore hits $93.6 mil

Katie Nelson
Arizona Republic
Mar. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

With land values around Tempe Town Lake skyrocketing, some longtime owners of nearby land are biding their time.Private property within the 743-acre district that surrounds the lake went from being worth $15.4 million to $93.6 million in the past nine years. Arizona State University and the Scott family are among those watching the values rise from the sidelines.The Scotts are the only family to own land on a lakeshore dominated by city- and corporate-owned property. The Scotts have owned and operated the Papago Riding Stables for more than 40 years, making a living off taking people on trail rides and boarding horses for owners throughout the Valley.“Well, he got lucky,” Clay Scott said of his dad, who originally bought and ran the business. “We just started out to run a riding stable. We’re not a developing type of people, but the value has just increased as things built up around him.”The Scott family gets nearly constant offers to buy their five acres of prime property.“Business is good, so there is no real incentive to sell,” he added. “But the offers keep coming and they keep adding zeros onto them checks.”

When the lake was completed in 1999, much of the surrounding shores were barren. The Papago Riding Stables and
Tempe Beach Park were there, but other acreage was “largely vacant and underutilized,” said Neil Calfee,
‘s deputy community development manager.

Some of the land had been used for household and private landfills. Other lots were – and still are – being used for parking lots for ASU.

When construction on the lake started in August 1997, it marked the end of 31 years of waiting from the time the project was hatched by a group of ASU students in 1966.

“Welcome to this historic occasion when we say to all: We will build this dream together and with partners, old and new, we will stand strong together and say with confidence that Rio Salado is a reality,” then-Mayor Neil Giuliano said at a groundbreaking ceremony.

Giuliano and former Mayor Harry Mitchell were major backers of the Rio Salado plan. Meanwhile, current Mayor Hugh Hallman was one of the project’s most vocal critics. Hallman said he believed the city was taking a big risk with taxpayers’ money by building the lake without firm commitments from developers.

To an extent, those concerns held water. Plans for the first big-ticket development, a 1,000-room, $150 million
Peabody hotel and convention center, eventually collapsed.

Since then, though, the ever-present construction projects are sure signs that artists‘ renderings are turning into actual bricks and mortar, just as the increasing land values prove the lake is developing into a cash cow for those who are willing to buy the land. Examples include the new Tempe Center for the Arts, scheduled to be completed this summer, and an increasing number of condo complexes taking shape directly on Town Lake’s shores.

The lake is ranked as the third-most popular private tourist attraction in the state, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism. Only Chase Field and the London Bridge have higher annual attendance, according to self-reported numbers.  


Representing Buyers and Sellers in through out the valley, all I ask is for the opportunity to earn your business. 

Andrew Holm, ABR Sterling Fine Homes & Land

The Holm Group Office: 480-767-2738  Cell: 480-206-4265

Email: [email protected]