After more than a decade of starts and stops, the Soleri bridge finally has the funding and agreed-upon design to become reality.
Paolo Soleri, an internationally renowned architect who lives in Paradise Valley, sat in the front row Tuesday as the Scottsdale City Council unanimously voted to contribute $1.7 million of city money to fund construction of Soleri's work across the Arizona Canal that supporters say will bring international attention to downtown.
A native of Italy, Soleri, 88, is well-known for his ceramic and bronze wind bells and as the creator of Arcosanti, the experimental town near Cordes Junction. Soleri said he started working on his first design for the bridge more than 10 years ago. Now on his second design, the architect said the bridge will attract people for different reasons and he expects the bridge and public plaza to play hosts to events.
"I am very grateful to them," Soleri said of the council. "I think this bridge can be a moneymaker."
Construction on the $3.2 million project could start as early as this summer. In addition to the $1.7 million in city money, Scottsdale Public Art is contributing $1 million and the Scottsdale Waterfront developer is contributing $500,000 under the terms of the redevelopment agreement with the city.
The 100-foot-long pedestrian bridge will cross the Arizona Canal near Scottsdale and Camelback roads. The bridge, which will be between 15 and 20 feet wide, will be anchored by two 64-foot pylons that will create a "light dagger" as the sun moves across the sky marking the equinox, the solstice and the cross-quarter dates. The shaded plaza on the south side of the canal will include a reflecting pool, Soleri-designed bells hung from 22-foot pylons over a circular shallow moving stream of water, gathering areas, benches and a hitching post next to the Sun Circle Trail.
Soleri Studios will create earth-cast walls to frame the south plaza in the signature architectural style of Arcosanti and Cosanti, according to a city description of the project.
Last week, the Scottsdale Development Review Board approved the project's design.
Scottsdale Public Art circulated e-mails in the past week calling on supporters to write the council to urge them to fund the construction. The strategy paid off, as council members noted receiving more than 120 correspondences in support or the project.
Five people spoke Tuesday in support of the project, including a resident of neighboring Scottsdale Waterfront. The speakers said the bridge would show the city's dedication to public art, add a cultural amenity, attract visitors and local residents, help nearby businesses and provide more alternatives for pedestrians.
Today, the Marshall Way Bridge that connects Scottsdale Waterfront with SouthBridge is the only crossing point over the newly landscaped canal banks.
There was also an expressed interest in completing the project in Soleri's lifetime. He will turn 89 in June.
"What a wonderful way to show Scottsdale to the rest of the world," resident Jim Cockrum said. "This is not just for Scottsdale, but for the international community."
The council agreed that the $1.7 million cost would be covered by the General Fund - which pays for general government services - tourism and transportation dollars. The final breakdown was not decided. Craig Clifford, the acting city treasurer, had not recommended funding the bridge this year because of tight economic times.
The council must still formally adopt the 2008-09 budget before funding would become available.
Final adoption is slated for June 3 with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.