Venetian Blind

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Mollard says a real-estate broker representing the Canals of Scottsdale approached him recently with a paper to sign: It was an option to buy his property.

"It wasn't an offer to buy my property, it was an offer to tie it up in escrow for 10 years so I couldn't sell it to anyone else," says Mollard. "Then, if they wanted to buy it, they could. When I saw what they were offering, I shoved this thing at the guy and said, 'Get the fuck off my property.'"

Thanks to the city's powers of condemnation, one day soon, Canals developers may be telling Mollard the same thing -- in so many words.

According to the agreement between Canals developers and the city, if there are any stubborn property owners in the redevelopment zone -- Mollard says it will take a crane to remove him from his home -- the City of Scottsdale will use its powers of condemnation to take possession of the property, then deed it to the developers.

Federal law requires the city pay condemned property owners "fair market value" for their land and buildings.

Campana says ousted owners "will be well taken care of."

"We're a nice, thriving, well-to-do community, and we will do this the right way," she says.

From the sidewalk the Scottsdale Galleria looks like a cocaine lord's South Beach compound on Miami Vice -- two high-profile, pink buildings connected by a sky bridge.

Inside it looks like the set for Lair of the Valley Girl Zombies.

The marble columns are as massive as the silence.

Sheets of black plastic hang in hundreds of abandoned storefronts on the four levels circling the grand atrium, creating the effect of a sinister hive.

Hands with elegant fingers and gold bracelets, painted on the walls, point the way to Scottsdale Road.

Developers built and billed the Galleria as a Ralph Lauren vision of the Southwest: Rodeo Drive shopping, Biosphere style.

Now, the Scottsdale Police Department uses the 415,000-square-foot complex as a training ground, running SWAT team simulations in the empty corridors.

The Galleria cost $120 million to build -- in 1987 dollars.

Excel Legacy Corporation purchased the building for $6 million in 1992. The Canals of Scottsdale deal calls for the city to buy the Galleria-turned-museum from Excel for $25 million.

For a decade, the Galleria has loomed over downtown Scottsdale as a monument to the dangers of excess. Ironically, the image-conscious city's worst eyesore would be one of the few structures in the Canals of Scottsdale zone left standing. Plans call for the pink monstrosity to be transformed into "The Museum of Progress."

Promotional literature from Unger's campaign group -- Great For Scottsdale, Great For You! -- describes the Museum of Progress as "a world-class cultural institution dedicated to chronicling the progress of mankind and the changes that have occurred in technology, nature, human nature, and the world's civilizations."

In addition to the Museum of Progress, the converted Galleria buildings will hold a sort of United Nations of mini-museums: the Arizona African Art Museum; the Asian-American Museum; the National Latino/Latina Museum, and the JFK Health World Children's Museum, featuring a crawl-through model of the human heart and "a virtual village where children learn first-hand about bike safety."

The planned centerpiece of the cultural complex, though, is a giant, interactive globe, 72 feet across, suspended from the ceiling of the Galleria's four-story, glass-topped atrium.

"Visitors will be able to walk on a cat walk through the giant globe and look down to see footage of such phenomena as a volcano erupting under the sea, or whales migrating," reads a Great For Scottsdale, Great For You! pamphlet.

"A sky scene that visitors can gaze at will be above the walkway. Rockets and airplanes are planned to 'fly' around the globe."

The hallways and former stores circling the atrium would contain the Museum of Progress' collection of "displays, exhibits, and artifacts from prestigious, rare and one-of-a-kind collections from across the United States."

The Galleria has already proved its usefulness as a mammoth display case.

In the fall of 1997, the City of Scottsdale hosted Icons, a traveling exhibit of cultural artifacts from the National Archives, including Abraham Lincoln's stove pipe hat, Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet and the ruby slippers that Judy Garland clicked in The Wizard of Oz.

Curated by the Smithsonian Institution, Icons was a huge success: 160,000 visitors, 60,000 of whom were Valley schoolchildren on field trips, came to the temporarily spiffed-up Galleria during the show's six-week run.

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse