For more than a decade, the former Sedona Cultural Park has sat empty aside from being a way for some to access a pair of popular trailheads.
Many have wondered what will come of the privately-owned area that sits on nearly 40 acres in West Sedona. And while a glimpse of what may be built there was seen 18 months ago, little information has been made public since then.
The Sedona Cultural Park is within the Western Gateway Community Focus Area, which was adopted by the Sedona City Council in May. This was something the property’s owners were waiting to have completed before proceeding.
“The CFA Plan will be used to evaluate any new development proposal at the Cultural Park,” Sedona Senior Planner Mike Raber said.
At this time, he said the city has not received any building applications for the Cultural Park. Once it does, the first step in the process would be the filing of a rezoning application and minor Community Plan amendment. These would be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council in public hearings. A development review application would also be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to any building permit review.
“It is difficult to know how long the process could take as there are several variables, such as the meeting schedules, the amount of time for review and the applicant’s time frame for putting application materials together and responding to questions and comments,” Raber said.
Talk of the Cultural Park has come up in a recent council meeting, specifically when discussing the ongoing transportation master plan. The question has been raised if the study takes into consideration possible future projects like the Cultural Park.
“The master plan analysis takes into account the existing zoning,” City Engineer Andy Dickey said. “If a future development changes zoning, that development is responsible for the increased impact. A potential developer would need to analyze the impact of their proposed development — through a traffic impact analysis — and they will be responsible for that impact.”
The last time talk of the park was done in a public setting came in June 2015 when the property’s co-owner, Mike Tennyson, spoke at a Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
“We look at this as not only a huge opportunity for ourselves but for the enrichment and advancement of this community as well,” he told the commission. “We got the property back from the Fitch Group in 2012 through foreclosure. We really didn’t want it back but we got it. We’re going to make lemonade out of lemons.”
Plans, as of 2015, called for an 8.5-acre resort and conference center, a 6.8-acre wellness village, residential area that would include various-priced homes, a campus of innovation for various technological or medical endeavors, a culinary institute, a possible expansion to Yavapai College, a shared parking structure and more than five acres of open space. In addition, it calls for several acres of what’s referred to as community core, which would include gardens, event space, a cafe/coffee shop, art studios, gathering hall, restaurant, garden market and plazas.
In 2007, the then-owner of the property received approval to place a 210-room hotel on the site. Tennyson said they did not anticipate asking for any additional rooms. However, they may seek permission to break the number of rooms up between the resort and the wellness village.
In all, he said at the time that their proposed project could cost anywhere from $250 million to $350 million to complete.
“There is a brand that comes with Sedona and we understand that,” Tennyson said. “There are a lot of people who come here for wellness and healing. We anticipate we can capitalize on that.”
There was no talk of what may become of the current amphitheater, which does not appear on the project map. Other options on the property include a music village and a gateway visitor center.
In regard to access to the trailheads adjacent to the property, Tennyson said technically all those people are trespassing. But he said they haven’t enforced it or blocked access. Instead, they allow access to the trailheads as a benefit to the community. He said they will continue to allow that access, even when the project is complete. But, in exchange, he asked that by them doing so, the city will see that as a community benefit, which are required with zone-change requests.
Tennyson told the city during that 2015 meeting that his group had been in talks with several potential investors. But he added that until they get everything approved by the city, he wasn’t going to risk his reputation by making promises to investors that he couldn’t keep.
“We’re only going to do this once,” he said. “We want to do it right and have it be successful.”