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Scottsdale Civic Center Mall

Many of the oldest remaining buildings constructed in the City of Scottsdale reside within the downtown area known to locals as “Old Town.” With a population of just over 2,000 residents, the city itself was incorporated in 1951. While several of the oldest structures remain and are represented within the 5 square miles which constituted this city at its inception, much of the development is far newer. Many of the newer constructions appear much older than they are, as they were designed with an Old Western aesthetic to match the city’s slogan: “[The] West’s Most Western Town”. The development within the area known as the Civic Center Mall is a prime example of this.

Adopting the slogan “West’s Most Western Town” reflected its roots and efforts to attract tourism, though the self-designated moniker has some historical basis. The earliest residents, arriving in 1888, were cattle ranchers. The community gradually grew and developed around a market constructed to aid with local agriculture and cattle drives. As with much of the American West, Scottsdale had a diverse population that included Mexican American migrants and settlers (some of whose presence may have predated the city's origins) and Native Americans (Yaqui Indians). Indeed, Mexican-American laborers performed much of that agricultural labor in Scottsdale and nearby towns, and Yaqui Indians served as water masters along the canals. The neighborhood stretched from Brown Avenue to the West to 75th Street to the East, and from Indian School to the North and 2nd Street to the South. The barrio was among the city's oldest neighborhoods.

As late as the 1960s, the city's Mexican-American barrio stood where the Civic Center Mall was constructed; it boasted a rich commercial and cultural life. All that remains to indicate those origins are the Little Red Schoolhouse (Scottsdale Historical Society), Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Los Olivos restaurant. However, the city razed the neighborhood using eminent domain federal urban renewal funds. The rationale was, of course, to create a city center and to replace a blighted neighborhood. However, the city also was engaged in relocating Mexican-American residents from the center of the town in much the same way that urban renewal efforts across Maricopa County, Arizona, and the United States used urban renewal to remake downtowns and disperse non-whites from those areas.

While some of this area remains untouched, much more changed. Major changes and construction began here in 1973. As part of a $5.2 million Neighborhood Redevelopment Program, the city acquired 18 acres of land, including the barrio, for the new construction. The new developments of the 1970’s were primarily commercial and oriented around building a public space at the heart of Scottsdale.

The City of Scottsdale originally budgeted only $400,000 for the construction, but a $7 million hotel, a $3 million performing arts center, 3 restaurants, and 55,000 square feet of retail shopping space known colloquially as a “mercado” replaced existing structures and homes. One of the architects spoke to the “critical need for [a] cultural meeting place” designed to represent the Old West but with a contemporary flair. Additionally, national Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds were used to develop modern residences in the immediately adjacent communities, now a white majority, in what would become one of the wealthiest cities in the state.


Festival for the Arts
Festival for the Arts The Mall's crowded park area during a Scottsdale Festival for the Arts event. Source: Scottsdale History Collection. Scottsdale Digital Collection. Scottsdale Heritage Connection. SCOT-HIS-2011-SP9-0027a - <> accessed December 10, 2016. Date: 1977
Architect's Layout
Architect's Layout A map of the mall used by architect Bennie Gonzales. Source:

Scottsdale History Collection. Scottsdale Digital Collection. Scottsdale Heritage Connection. SCOT-HIS-2012-2681 - <> accessed December 10, 2016.

Date: published 1986
Modern Art
Modern Art An example of the modern art structures found throughout the park. This piece was acquired in 1973. Source: Scottsdale History Collection. Scottsdale Digital Collection. Scottsdale Heritage Connection. CCL_HIS_2014_0265 - <> accessed December 10, 2016. Date: 2012
Mall Aerial View
Mall Aerial View An Ariel View of the Mall and surrounding area before parking structures and tunnels were added. Source: Scottsdale History collection. Scottsdale Digital collection. Scottsdale Heritage Connection. CCL_HIS_2016_0320 - <> accessed December 10, 2016. Date: ca. 1985
Construction of Doubletree Hotel
Construction of Doubletree Hotel While parts of the Mall had already been completed, this depicts the construction of the Doubletree Hotel in 1975. Source: Scottsdale Heritage Connection. Scottsdale Digital Collection. Scottsdale Architecture Collection. Scottsdale Historical Society Digital Collection. SCOT_SHS_2015_0711 - <> accessed December 10, 2016. Date: 1975



Aidan Solsten, “Scottsdale Civic Center Mall,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 23, 2024,