January 30, 2012

District works to save the Rialto Theatre

The Tucson City Council and the public citizens made it clear that they wanted the Rialto Theater preserved.

The new District Board has worked to accommodate this ongoing request within the limits of the law. Much of the legal fees incurred over the past two years by the Rio Nuevo District were generated in response to members of the Tucson City Council and the City’s lawyers on a variety of matters. All of the legal work commissioned to protect the public’s interest in the Rialto Theater was in response to the City and the public outcry to save the Rialto. The District focused on accommodations to reduce the failing Rialto’s obligations for capital improvements and rent under their original agreement, which the District Board inherited.

In an effort to be responsive to the community and the City Council, the District has incurred legal fees in excess of $45,000.00 trying to help the Rialto Theater. In fact, in one month alone, July 2010, the district was required to spend monies on legal fees to respond to City Council requests on fourteen different occasions; (7/1/2010, 7/2/2010 X 2, 7/8/2010, 7/12/2010, 7/17/2010 X 2, 7/18/2010 X 2, 7/19/2010 7/21/2010, 7/23/10, 7/26/10 X 2). In 2010, the public outcry made it very clear through correspondence with various District Board members that the Rialto should be preserved if at all possible. The District Board and its counsel significantly accommodated this request. All of the legal work performed by the District’s attorneys was done at greatly reduced hourly rates and with “no charge hours.”

The District shares the community’s desire that the Rialto become not only a draw to people downtown, but an effective contributor to the tax base with a good and solid business plan for success. “The District is working to set a solid plan to help stabilize the Rialto so that it has a chance to become cost-to-revenue neutral,” said Chair Jodi Bain. Some District Board members met with the Rialto after the last District meeting to work through and discuss ideas for business and management issues. Board Members Jonathan Paton, Jeff Hill and Rick Grinnell have extensively worked with the Rialto on business and financial restructuring for this downtown venue. The District encourages the Rialto to bring back a viable business plan that shows a real opportunity for their success.

The Arizona Daily Star rightfully stated that the Rio Nuevo District Board has been forced to spend considerable sums on legal bills and must explain what it has done to control these expenses. Over the next few weeks, the all volunteer District Board intends to do just that; we are making ourselves and the information available to the public through public information sessions, press notifications, and we are in the process of posting documents on our website.

The reconstituted District Board inherited over ten years of troubled Rio Nuevo history with a multitude of defunct Intergovernmental Agreements, non-performing Development Agreements, leases and other legal documents. The District remains optimistically hopeful to recover the property and assets for which it has already paid, allowing the District to move forward with projects within its boundaries as soon as possible. They also hope to establish a fast-track program for projects within the District through collaboration with the City of Tucson and City Development Services and other departments with a clear incentive program for development and business creation within District boundaries.

To date the District Board has served as a “watch dog” and saved the taxpayers over $3 million.

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