The Recession in Pictures – Scottsdale, Arizona

by | Nov 20, 2009 | Rick Blaine | 27 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    Yeah, I know Scottsdale hasn’t been hit as hard as other areas of the country…like Detroit, etc…

    …but this morning I realized just how strange the current state of the little shopping center near my house is.

    The “anchor” store (an upscale grocery store) opened over a year year ago…and only a few other businesses have moved in since.  Off the top of my head, I would guess the complex is 20% full…MAYBE…and my guess is that high because the “anchor” store takes up a relatively large spot.

    Granted, supposedly there are parts of Florida with entire shopping centers that have been deserted.

    However, I have never seen anything like this in Scottsdale, and my family has lived here since the early ’80s.

    In years past, even during recessions, it pretty much seemed as if shopping centers like this, and anything else for that matter (e.g., houses), simply could not be built fast enough.  That is, for the most part, whenever a new shopping center or subdivision went up, it was basically filled immediately.

    That has always been particularly true in the northern parts of Scottsdale, sometimes referred to as “Snottsdale” – it’s sort of the yuppy-ish, Hollywood-like part.  Additionally, this shopping center sits near a large, very affluent master planned community (“DC Ranch”).  Therefore, in “normal?” times, this seems like a great location for small businesses, etc….at least in my opinion.

    Just to reiterate where this is – this is not on the outskirts of the Phoenix Metro area…like out in Queen Creek, Surprise, or Maricopa (areas where housing has gotten MURDERED since the peak). 

    This is primetime Scottsdale these days.

    As I was driving through it this morning, I was thinking what a waste it was.  It’s a beautiful little complex.  I decided to take a few photos with my camera phone (which does a decent job IMO).

    Anyway, I know a bunch of photos like this have been floating around the internet…but I thought you’d still might want to see these.

    I might try to take more in the coming weeks.  I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of places like this in Scottsdale Airpark (it’s a small airport surrounded by a bunch of commercial real estate – mostly small businesses).

    (Click for larger image)




    Here are a few more photos.

    The first shows the anchor store…then a closer shot of the front of the store and the fountain there…then the last is of the end of that same building and another fountain.  Nice place…

    As you can see, the anchor does do some business – heck, I’m there all the time.  It’s important to keep this in context…






    Like I said before, I can not remember a time in Scottsdale, especially in such a “hot” area, where a new, nice center like this had gone so long without being substantially filled by businesses.

    Again, it’s not Detroit…but I consider this to be VERY unusual for Scottsdale – especially in this particular area.


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      1. Rick, I am seeing the same thing here in the Houston area. I lived just north of Houston earlier this year, near the Woodlands, TX.

        The strip malls / mini-shopping centers that had been built the year prior were completely empty. 100% vacancies! And they were sitting vacant for literally 1+ years. And this was not isolated to just one strip center, but four or five.

        Putting it into context is important, as there were certainly strip malls on certain intersections that were still full, with existing businesses seemingly doing ok. However, newly constructed shopping centers were not attracting new businesses at all.

        Earlier this week I took a trip to central Texas, and saw very similar occurrences. Entire shopping centers, which were completed earlier this year, were completely vacant.

        This evening, I went over to the local Fudruckers and it was pretty slow. Friday night — no businesses. They have maybe, what, 50 tables in a Fudruckers. 6pm on a Friday night and there were maybe 5 tables seated, total of maybe 20 patrons. I spoke with the manager and asked him about it and asked him to compare it to last year at this time and the year before that. He said that there is a significant reduction in traffic and all he’s trying to do right now is ‘get some more people in the door.’

        In my personal opinion, we are still in the opening phase of the next Great depression, and we will see fewer and fewer businesses surviving. If they are not essential businesses, or if they are not the best in their class, they are going to be toast.

      2. It’s like that here in S.E Washington State, as well. Our biggest mall looks like a ghost town. All the little mom and pops stores are now gone. The two remaining anchor stores have once or twice declared they were considering re-locating as well. 

        Celente’s forecast on Commercial R.Est is dead on. All throughout my town, you see commercial bldgs. emptying, one by one.  It’s sad to see the “We’re Moving to another location” signs, then next thing you know, the store is empty, but no sign showing the “new location”.  I think many stores that can no longer afford the lease/mortagage that are in inflated 2005-07 pricing, are moving back to more affordable locations. The problem is, many do not have the cash flow required to make the transition, and end up liquidating. (then working at wal-mart)

        Beans, bullets, and the bible will be many peoples lifeline in the next year or so. Hang on folks, we are in for one hell of a ride!

      3. Hey Rick. I’m in Chandler, AZ (just south of you).  Near the mall there are 2 completely abandoned real estate projects. One is the concrete frame of a highrise condo (you may have seen it – it has been there a few years) and the other is an entire shopping plaza that has only wooden frames built. It hasn’t been worked on for about 14 months. These “landmarks” are blaring examples that we are not out of this, nor will we be for a long, long time. Very sad.

      4. Schaef – No, I don’t get down there that much.  Where exactly are they?  You should take a photo or two and send them to Mac.

        Have you been out to any of real “boom” areas, like Maricopa?  I’ve heard rumors describing virtually deserted neighborhoods…Do you know if any of those places are really that bad? 

        I’m planning driving around up here a bit this weekend.  Scottsdale Airpark probably has some dandies…at least relatively speaking.

      5. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to gauge the economy with this very thing. I’m wondering if one could come up with an EPI (Economic Pain Index) based on the percentage of relatively new but empty commercial real estate. One would have to be careful to not include places that have been abandoned for years. There are areas of my town that have been abandoned for years. Those would not be included.

        Celente has been predicting this for at least 9 months. His talk about “ghost malls” is coming true.

        I’ve been joking about “all the new businesses in town.” People ask me, “What? What are you talking about?” I see these giant banners for these new businesses “FOR RENT” and “SPACE AVAILABLE”. Those two businesses must be doing well. They’re buying up storefronts everywhere! Joking aside, people are hurting. The sheeple are running out of ground feed and they won’t like going back to just grass.

        I seldom go to town the day after thanksgiving, however. this year I will just to see how busy it is. Anybody have any predictions?

      6. I work for a huge telecommunications company; my job is working with developers and General Contractors to provide telecommunications service to commercial construction. Good thing I have other tasks as well, as here in upper central NC there IS no commercial construction. Planned projects are stopped, and newly built strip malls sit empty. Had a project to provide service to a medical firm moving into a shopping center that I had worked on well over a year ago…similar to Rick’s, with a large grocery store chain anchor and a number of lease units attached. The medical office had leased the first space in the complex after a year of sitting totally empty. Other engineers who normally are swamped with housing developement construction have nothing going on. I currently have ONE commercial project going…normally I’m doing 12 – 15 at a time. I don’t know how the GC’s are surviving.

      7. Pearland texas is in denile!!!

      8. Wow, I had no idea there were so many folks from AZ!  I’m in Chandler too.  There are a few spots where the anchor store has left local strip malls, including a couple of Bashas’ grocery stores, which to me, is very surprising.  I used to figure grocery stores would be the last to go, but we do seem to have a large number of them in the Phx area.  It rather reminds me of the incredible number of gas stations we had back 8-10 years ago, and that number seems to be significantly declined now.  I remember many intersections with 2 and sometimes even 3 gas stations!

      9. You want a prediction? Here’s what Phil Connors has to say:

        If it doesn’t auto-direct, go to about 6m35s to 6m55s.

        It sounds like it’s happening in Arizona.. maybe i should move there.

        NR QUOTE: I seldom go to town the day after thanksgiving, however. this year I will just to see how busy it is. Anybody have any predictions?

        While I think Phil Connors is right on, here’s what I am thinking…The news will be touting it like it is a consumption revival. The malls and retail stores will be loaded with shoppers. The problem: shoppers wallets won’t be loaded with cash. They will be buying, that’s for sure, and they’ll probably have big box packaging in their bags. The other problem: the big box packaging will be loaded with crap products from China that would be better left on the shelves.

        I read on Yahoo they were selling appliances in their pre-black friday sale for $5 a pop. I guess they’re hoping people will buy more stuff while they are in the store.

        so, ya, they will be moving inventory. But consumers will be spending less, buying cheaper products, and the retailers will be making very small margins.

      10. HA!  I don’t even have to click the link, Mac.  Great movie…and awesome line.

        However, I did click the link…and another good one is at 7:40 or:  “….He’s got to be stopped…and I have to stop him.” 

        Patrick – I think Bashas’ filed for bankruptcy…and they had to close some stores.  That grocery store in these photos is an AJ’s – which is owned by Bashas’.

        NetRanger and Mac – my guess is that Black Friday is actually going to seem “OK.”  That is, I’m betting that the retailers are able to lure a “decent” number of shoppers out for THAT day…but over the coming weeks, we’ll get a more accurate picture.  I simply CAN NOT see this holiday season being anything but a “holy $&!^” scare…

        Consumer credit has fallen off a cliff…and consumer credit is the drug that we’ve been addicted to for the last 20+ years…and it is a huge part of why we are in this mess.  We need this recession…just like a drug addict needs to go through withdrawals.  In the end, they are much better off.


      11. what kind of camera phone DO you have, Rick?  i agree, it does a pretty decent job.  i’m betting it’s some version of a blackberry.  if you say “iPhone” i’m going to throw up on my keyboard…

        (i just wanted to contribute in a way that illustrates that i read the entire post…)


      12. LOL soz.

        Speaking of iPhones and recessions, my wife just broke the glass on her iPhone. Earlier in the year i recommended a protector thingy for it (I have a blackberry so i don’t know all the Apple-Tech-Talk), but she ignored me.. as usual (j/k, in case you’re reading sweethawt, I love you )…

        Anyway, glass is broke. In a boom economy, I’d ditch the iPhone and go blow $250 for a new one… But, since we are in the middle of a depression, I checked out a bunch of vids online and went ahead and ordered a glass repair kit on ebay for $20.

        I will be performing iPhone surgery tonight, after I have a few glasses of Cabernet, of course 🙂

        Hmm… perhaps I should put up an iPhone SHTF post. From the view count on the vids i saw at youtube, this happens very often. I wonder how much Apple makes on just iphone replacements.

      13. right on, mac.  did your wife tell you that i ditched my iPhone (pre-emptively to damage) for a blackberry curve 8900?  i love it.  frankly, i was tired of the apple-olopy.  granted, if i were a gazillioniare, i’d have all things apple, but since i’m not…screw ’em. 

        i already had to replace one iPhone – and couldn’t get a break from ATT OR apple to do it.  ergo, i ditched both companies.  i AM a pc, and i don’t care if that makes me a little chubby, slightly slower, and a shitload cheaper.  it’s the story of my life.  oh, i feel yet another pointless blog post coming on…

      14. iPhones are the devil.

        …at least I’ll keep telling myself that until I pony up for one.

        Every time I mess with one, I wind up messing around with it for like an hour.

        My phone is an LG enV2…which I got for free (that makes me feel better about not having an iPhone).

        If Verizon ever picks them up, I’m all in.

        …and Soz did read the entire post.  I wrote the darn thing I had forgotten about that bit until she brought it up.

        Speaking of Apple products, have you guys seen this (pay attention to the stuff that is displayed on the screen during the demos they show):

      15. I just noticed another good one in that video.

        …at about 1:55 – the prices.  The 40 GB…

      16. “Everything is just a few hundred clicks away” LOL

      17. Actually, my favorite part is the “intelligent sentence predictor” or whatever they call it….

        Check out the sentences that appear in the pull down menu.

        “The aardvark asked for a dagger.”

      18. Yeah, i ended up pausing and reading all of them.. heh. good stuff.

      19. Rick, I live in the Phoenix area, and I swear there’s a lot less traffic on the freeways, even during rush hours. 

      20. Woa…another Phoenix person…

        Yes, Lisa – I agree.  Something else I noticed – it seems like people aren’t driving quite as fast.  Maybe they are just trying to save gas/money…but my sister’s theory is that more people are preoccupied with/worrying about the economy, money, etc., so they just aren’t in quite the rush, as their minds are on other things.

        I grew up here, but I lived in the Bay Area during the “recession.”  When that baby popped, the difference in traffic was very noticeable.

      21. It might be partially due to preoccupation, but I’d say it’s mostly due to the roadside photo-radar SUVs that are randomly parked all over the place nowadays and people not wanting to get an extra $100 bill in the mail.  The most annoying thing to me is that people are so stupid, they’ll slow down to between 50-55 mph when the speed limit is 65.  Just plain fear of the man!  Oh, and ignorance as to what their or their vehicle is doing…

      22. Funny about the traffic thing. I can’t notice it too much here South of Houston, because it is a traffic disaster all the time. Too many people, to few lanes.

        However, up north of Houston, there was always traffic in the Woodlands area during typical rush hour time spans. (I was actually north of the Woodlands, so there were two major roads in and out of the area where i lived). My father-in-law, who still lives up there, told me that traffic is significantly down now. No problems getting to and from work anymore — smooth sailing. He thinks it’s because people are getting laid off and they have nowhere to go, so they just stay home.

        I guess I don’t have a better explanation. This seems to be the most likely answer.

      23. @Mac – totally agree on the volume of traffic, that’s due to lower employment, no doubt.

        The issue with slower traffic, is slightly more complex, but could very well be due to all of the above: people stressing out, people saving money on gas by driving slower and very likely (in the Phx area anyway) trying to avoid a speeding ticket that they can’t afford from the sea of mobile photo-radar SUVs camped out all over the place.

        OK – so does this article have the comment record for yet?  lol

      24. Let’s keep it going…

        Re the slower traffic thing and photo-radar, that’s a good point…but it seems to me that there are now more of those people cruising at like 55 even though the speed limit is 65.

        And remember, the photo-radar stations are set to 76 mph.  That is, you have to be going 11 mph over the limit to get a ticket.  I THINK “many” people know that.

        That being said, I usually try to keep it right about 70, just in case…and nowadays, when I’m going 70-ish, it seems like I am one of the fastest people out there.  That didn’t seem to be quite the case a year or two ago, at least if my memory serves me correctly.  Then again, they are now using more of the mobile stations – so people don’t know where they are…even though if you are paying attention, they usually have a sign up like 1/4 a mile before where the van is parked.

        So, I guess Patrick is right – it is rather complex.

      25. Mac Said:
        The news will be touting it like it is a consumption revival. The malls and retail stores will be loaded with shoppers. The problem: shoppers wallets won’t be loaded with cash. They will be buying, that’s for sure, and they’ll probably have big box packaging in their bags. The other problem: the big box packaging will be loaded with crap products from China that would be better left on the shelves.

        Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting twist within my two theories in the link below to the NeitherCorp forum. Media touting being closer to T#2 but in reality actual shopper reaction will be close to T#1. I just don’t know. There is a big helping of collusion going around. I just don’ t know. We shall see! I’m ready with my camera (and motorcycle if its a nice day…) I’ll go snooping.;msg2403#new


      26. ok, you guys almost had me on that apple wheel video.  i was like, “oh COME ON!!!!” and then realized it was an onion video.  it’s kind of scary though, because they actually could come out with something that asinine and people would react just that way…

        i hope you don’t mind, but when i write my monster post about me being a pc, ditching the iPhone and att, and the whatnot, i’m using that video…

        @rick, i had a friend who had the LG Env, and i used to drool over it occasionally.  i like buttons.  i would HATE the wheel…

      27. Hey guys, interesting posts on commercial real estate and ghost malls. I’m in Brooklyn, NY and I have to say I’m seeing it too, not with the big malls but with stores and smaller businesses. Lots of “FOR RENT” signs everywhere…


      1. The Recession in Pictures: Scottsdale, AZ Part II - [...] (e.g., Detroit…with a real unemployment supposedly approaching 50%).  However, as I said last time, my family has lived here…

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