Renderings courtesy of Hubbard Street Group

As a surge of proposed skyscrapers promises to redefine the Tempe skyline, local leaders, community members, and developers navigate the challenges of growth while preserving the city’s unique character.

Hubbard Street Group, known for their work in downtown Phoenix, aims to repurpose the site currently housing the Salvation Army. The proposed 300-foot-tall tower, Skye Tempe, sits among five similar plans in the vicinity of University Drive, east of Mill Avenue. Each project targets smaller infill plots, which aim to maximize downtown density and capitalize on the robust real estate market.

Skye Tempe plans to offer 281 units, mixing studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. The ground floor is set to host a selection of retail outlets, intended to serve the anticipated influx of young professionals who favor the city’s walkable neighborhoods.

Contrary to some concerns, Major David Yardley, the Salvation Army’s Southwest Division general secretary, has confirmed the organization will continue its essential work within the community, even after the relocation from its current home.

However, balancing the preservation of Mill Avenue’s historic charm with the city’s growing demand for housing is a crucial challenge. To maintain a sense of scale in the street view, skyscrapers are required to be set back from the street, where the existing structures are predominantly one to three stories tall.

As the developments reach for the sky, there’s a hard cap to consider, too. In most of Tempe, the building height is limited to 300 feet, a decision influenced by concerns around air traffic at Sky Harbor.

In addition to Skye Tempe, the city’s future includes several other high-rise projects at various stages of approval. The city council recently approved a 25-story tower with ground-level commercial space, a collaborative project between Wexford Developments and CA Ventures, which promises to bring 453 units to the community.

But not all are thrilled with these towering plans. The Development Review Commission expressed concerns about potential traffic congestion and questioned the architectural diversity of these upcoming projects. In an unexpected move, the commission voted against recommending Skye Tempe’s approval to the city council, citing concerns about increased traffic and the potential impact of an unprecedented number of similar projects.

Despite these concerns, the city council will make the final decision on Skye Tempe in the coming months. The outcome is eagerly awaited, as it will set a precedent for similar projects in the pipeline.

Deputy Community Development Director Ryan Levesque sees this surge in proposals as a rebound from the slowdown caused by the pandemic. Despite the rapid influx of projects, he maintains a confident outlook. He believes in Tempe’s ability to navigate these changes and emerge stronger, and he’s consistently expressed that Tempe is a destination location that people will flock to.

As the transformation of Tempe’s skyline evolves, it’s clear that the conversation around growth, preservation, and the urban aesthetic is far from over. It will require continued dialog between developers, city leaders, and community members to ensure Tempe continues to thrive as a desirable place to live, work, and play.