October 20, 2014

Rio Nuevo Takes Action on Several Items

In an action oriented study session the Rio Nuevo board passed several projects designed to continue enhancing the downtown core and attracting patrons to downtown projects and venues.

The Board unanimously approved selling the Rialto Theatre to the Rialto Theatre Foundation subject to an appraisal and has requested an appraisal of the property. Currently the Foundation leases the theater from the District and will end up with title to the property several years. The Foundation offered instead to acquire the building now, terminate the current lease and pay cash for the theater. Funding for the transaction would be provided by National Bank of Arizona. The proceeds of the sale could then be re-purposed by the Board for other downtown projects.

With a vote of 5 to 2 the District approved the $75,000 request by the January 8 Memorial Foundation to help launch a memorial on city and county property adjacent to the old courthouse downtown. Board member Jeff Hill expressed concerns that such an investment could violate the state constitution and be considered a gift. The county and the Board of Supervisors are currently being challenged regarding gifts to charitable organizations. The motion to approve the request passed, subject to counsel confirming the legality of the allocation. The Memorial Foundation staff presented a compelling argument that the memorial could attract over 100,000 new patrons to downtown with an annual economic impact of over $3,000,000.

The Board also approved taking control of the Fox Theatre back from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has a thirty plus year lease and receives an annual dividend of about $90,000. In 2006 the National Trust became involved in operating structure to generate some historic tax dollars. Although the Fox Foundation pays the annual dividend to the Trust, the District receives no benefit from that relationship. The Board authorized payment of up to $360,000 to buy out the Trust’s position. In exchange the Fox would pay the dividend amount, just under $90,000 annually, directly to Rio Nuevo, beginning in 2018.

The Board approved approximately $360,000 of change order requests for the TCC Arena to enhance the breezeway, remodel the north entrance lobby and add some electronic signage in and around the venue. The $7.8M Arena project remains on time and on budget and has received great reviews from early participants for the new seats, concessions, bathrooms and sound.

The Board also approved a $750,000 contract with the Downtown Tucson Partnership to manage the $750,000 streetscape funds agreed upon between the City and the District as part of the litigation settlement agreement entered into in 2013. These improvements will focus on Scott, between Pennington and Congress and Arizona Avenue.

Beach Fleishman, the District’s independent auditors, presented the annual audit for last year and gave the District an unqualified or clean opinion, with no audit adjustments and no issues with the District’s management of taxpayer funds. The Board unanimously approved the independent audit, which will be finalized and published to the District website.