By Fletcher McCusker, Originally written for the Trend Report, March 2018
The section of Broadway from downtown to County Club was called The Sunshine Mile in the 1950’s. It was really Tucson’s first auto oriented shopping district and the region’s premier architects designed many of the shops and buildings.
The city of Tucson, using RTA funds, has elected to widen Broadway and will acquire some 50 properties on the north side of the street using imminent domain statutes. Many of the properties are not in the right of way, per se, but lose their parking and setbacks.
Rio Nuevo approached both the City and the RTA and offered to save the properties, all in the Rio Nuevo district, but not actually in the right of way. The City would have to help with zoning issues, granting variances or overlay zones for parking and setback requirements and agree to transfer title to Rio Nuevo at no cost.
Rio Nuevo would then rehabilitate the properties, lease them to viable and interesting tenants, including existing merchants that want to stay, and work toward restoring the themed destination along the entire corridor.
As with any project Rio Nuevo would partner with the private sector for the improvements and leasing management. Once the properties have been improved and leased they will be offered for sale with the proceeds going back to the RTA.
As a result properties that were abandoned or demolished will become vibrate retail: cafes, boutiques, quaint shops with new access, outdoor courtyards and parking.
The Intergovernmental Agreement that dictates the tri-party terms was approved by the Rio Nuevo board on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. Rio Nuevo has retained The Project for Public Spaces to help in the planning for the new destinations. PPS is a renowned place making organization responsible for such iconic restorations as Bryant Park in New York, downtown Detroit, the Geronimo neighborhood of San Francisco, downtown Raleigh, Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn.
It is our hope that not only do we create a win-win for the taxpayers by keeping these properties paying sales and property tax but by partnering with PPS we create a true iconic destination. It is, perhaps, our most important assignment.