Scottsdale Quarter: Celebrating 10 Years of Design

Short essay by Ian Volner

Nelsen Partners has never hewed to a single stylistic mode; the firm moves, from project to project, with laudable dexterity, adapting to the demands of each brief. Yet Scottsdale Quarter might be deemed the quintessential Nelsen project: combining far-thinking planning, attention to detail, and commercial savvy, the 360,000-square-foot mixed-use project shows the firm firing on all cylinders, creating a new urban community almost of out nothing. Its sheer Nelsen-ness is evident even in the project’s origins—it is an immediate offshoot of the adjacent Kierland Commons, designed by Nelsen a few years earlier and located just on the Phoenix side of the municipal border—a project that proved so successful that the neighboring town of Scottsdale was all but obliged to create its own pendant development.

While the two function in tandem to some degree, Scottsdale Quarter also stands alone as an urban enclave, with over 200,000 square feet of commercial space, twice as much residential space, hotel accommodations and a full battery of nightlife options scattered in a web of walkable streets and landscaped plazas. Still more typical of the firm, the development is possessed of a sense of event and action that seems to swirl around at all hours: from couples lounging under the shady tree cover by day, to children playing in the dramatically lit central fountain by night, to residents peeking in the storefront displays on the way to work and on the way home again, Scottsdale Quarter is always alive, even as its fourth and final construction phase (coming a decade after the first) is now completed.

There is hardly a more succinct statement of the Nelsen Partners philosophy of patience, pragmatism, and architecture in the service of community. 


Before and after

“Developments like Scottsdale Quarter are unique and take time. With each new phase, like a new puzzle piece, the picture slowly begins to take shape.  The picture evolves and with each new phase it morphs and impacts future phases. Yet, the story is incomplete until the final phase is completed. 

It has been incredibly rewarding to finally see the project and the vision that was started over 15 years ago be finally realized. I remember meeting with Michael Glimcher, back in 2005, and he said, “We love what you have done at Kierland, but we want to take Scottsdale Quarter to the next level”. We toured streets in Boston and New York. We aspired to create a place like the Ramblas in Spain.  The vision to create a different shaded pedestrian experience in the Desert Southwest, that was regional, more urban, sustainable, and thriving with people living, working, shopping and dining is now a completed picture.

I am proud of our team and of the way the project has been absorbed into the fabric of the community.  The community engagement in the spaces speak to the power of ideas and dreams to raise the human spirit and bring community together."

George Melara, AIA



545,000 sf

284,000 sf

400,000 sf

Regional landscape and cooling water fountains


The heart of Scottsdale Quarter is focused around a date palm shaded urban plaza with cafés and shops overlooking a dramatic interactive water feature. Narrow shopping streets, courtyards, and heavily landscaped residential streets create a distinct identity that defines the Quarter as a unique district.

Visiting Scottsdale Quarter?