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  #201  
Old Posted May 19, 2006, 9:00 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Now that he has a new development agreement with the city, Don Bourn has submitted a somewhat updated look for his condo development on the downtown "Thrifty block," although it won't break ground for nearly a year:






Bourn unveils look for condos
By Rob O'Dell
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
05.19.2006


Developer Don Bourn has unveiled a new look for his Downtown condominium project, but the project is still nearly a year from breaking ground. The new design for the five-story building features brick, glass and rusted steel, Oscar Turner, project manager for Bourn Partners, said during a kickoff event Wednesday. He said the goal was to make the building appealing from the street and to make in fit with the surrounding buildings.

Though the groundbreaking won't happen for close to a year, Wednesday's event was intended to kick off the project, now that the development agreement with the city has been finalized, Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko said. He said the next step is design and permitting.

Bourn said his project is about quality over quantity and that, because Tucson's Downtown is relatively small, "a handful of great projects can make a great Downtown." He said the project is geared toward those seeking urban lifestyles. The project calls for a five-story structure with roughly 40 condos, one floor of underground parking and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space on Congress Street between Stone and Scott avenues. Bourn's proposal closely matches his original proposal for the project. After initially proposing a five-story building, he scaled up and called for building a development up to 14 stories and 95 condos. Under that plan, the neighboring Bank One Annex building would have been demolished.

Bourn abandoned that proposal based on feedback from the public and after City Council members denied his request for $4 million worth of incentives and warned Bourn that they would seek a new developer if progress on the project stalled. The city sold the land to Bourn's company in June 2004 for $100. Bourn pressed to have existing buildings on the block, including a pre-1900 structure built by pioneer rancher George Pusch, torn down quickly, only to leave the property vacant for 18 months.

Also speaking at the project's kickoff were Bourn's partner David Fina, Mayor Bob Walkup and Councilwoman Nina Trasoff. "It took at lot of guts, because it hasn't been an easy road," Trasoff said. "In a year or two, we're going to see something magnificent."
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  #202  
Old Posted May 19, 2006, 2:04 PM
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oliveurban oliveurban is offline
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Last edited by oliveurban; May 19, 2006 at 11:23 PM.
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  #203  
Old Posted May 22, 2006, 9:48 PM
bobjuba bobjuba is offline
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That would be a really neat bridge, but sorry to burst the bubble, it will never happen. Tucson is too regressive in thier growth and politics to let it happen. The city government will find a way to shoot it down in Cowboy fashion. Having lived in both Tucson and Phoenix I can tell you that is a Phoenix like project, not a Tucson one. The money to do it in Tucson will have to come from a private investor. What would a private investor get out of a project like that? It will never happen.
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  #204  
Old Posted May 22, 2006, 9:49 PM
bobjuba bobjuba is offline
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One more thought, Tucson will not even build highways, let alone bridges over highways!
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  #205  
Old Posted May 30, 2006, 9:58 PM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Tucson continues to face multiple challenges in its efforts to redevelop its struggling downtown, including a lack of clear guidelines for developer incentives and competitive bidding processes, vague developer plans and agreements, and the uncertainty of future tax incremental funding (TIF) from the state.

(NOTE: several studies done for Phoenix indicated that most of the successful downtown redevelopments surveyed, including those in Denver and San Diego, had TIF support. For more info., see http://www.coppersquare.com/business/)






Downtown renovation subsidies criticized
By Rob O'Dell
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
05.30.2006


You've probably heard the cry from city officials and Downtown boosters: Rio Nuevo is coming! Rio Nuevo is coming! "Downtown redevelopment is just around the corner" has been the mantra for years. So with all the talk, where is it? And why can't developers seem to build anything Downtown without healthy subsidies from city taxpayers?

Other than housing projects on the fringe of Downtown, no new structures bigger than a parking garage have gone up in the city's core in decades. And even the parking garage was a public-private partnership. Builders say city deal sweeteners are needed because of Downtown's lack of appeal. But critics say the city's approach to Downtown revitalization — giving sweetheart, often no-bid, deals to developers with little or no competition — is a major reason for lack of progress.

"Don't want to take the risks"
Developers cite market forces as the reason for the lack of Downtown redevelopment, and the fact that they can make more money with less risk by building in parts of town that are more convenient to their customers. "Downtown has never been financially lucrative. The private sector has not gotten in because they don't want to take the risks," said Humberto S. Lopez, president of HSL Properties Inc., who is proposing a $185 million redevelopment of the Hotel Arizona, which will include a request for Rio Nuevo funding.

They also heap most of the blame on the city, with its layers of bureaucracy, wanting to micromanage properties. Many also point the finger at the city's Rio Nuevo office for slowing things down before it was restructured and stripped of some duties by City Manager Mike Hein. In turn, some Tucsonans blame the developers, who "all seem to have their hands out," in the words of Roy Martin, a Downtown lawyer and advocate of preserving historic buildings in the Downtown area.

No defined process
One thing most seem to agree on is that the lack of a set process for bidding on and buying city land Downtown hurts all the parties involved. Land, in short supply and expensive, is a key piece of the city's plan to lure builders Downtown. "There is not a publicized process for buying real estate from the city," said commercial broker Mike Ebert, noting that there isn't even a public list of city-owned properties on the market.

Donovan Durband, executive director of the Tucson Downtown Alliance, said there needs to be a fair, open and consistent process used to sell city land Downtown. He said taxpayers deserve an open process; the developers want to feel they are being treated fairly and have confidence in a predictable process; and the city wants to avoid being put into awkward positions when someone approaches it about buying or being given property. Durband said that in the past, all three sides have been dissatisfied with the process.

"Tremendous loss of money"
Louis Barassi, a lawyer with an interest in Downtown development, said the problem with the city selling or giving land for a project is too often the city fails to get specifics about what the developer will do, and when. Then, locked into the agreement, it leaves the developer free to ignore city expectations later. That results in a "tremendous loss of money and property by the city," he said. And not having a competitive process, Barassi said, "really is detrimental to the private sector, in my view."

Several proposed large Downtown projects have been launched when a single developer approached the city about a piece of property and was accepted as the only one with whom the city would negotiate. Barassi said that identifying developers and giving them the land, instead of using a competitive structure based on the best project, means the city is dealing with fewer developers with fewer financial qualifications, less ability and less clout.

He said that giving one developer a sweetheart deal leads to a vicious circle in which the next developer wants a sweet deal because the last developer got one. "It's just one loss after another," he said. "A lot of just bad deals are being put through."

City manager cites problems
Hein agreed, adding that the process of awarding a project to a developer without a competitive process, and without all the financial aspects of the deal being fleshed out, has put the city at a disadvantage. He also acknowledged that subsidizing one developer can lead to a snowball effect, with others asking for taxpayer money. Some of the projects that have been awarded or considered without having the details fleshed out include: revamping the Rialto Theatre block; a public-private partnership called the Depot Plaza to redevelop the Martin Luther King apartments; the Thrifty block, being developed by Don Bourn; a now-dead high-rise proposed by Bob McMahon and Don Martin; a planned condominium tower proposed by Jim Campbell on the former Greyhound bus station site; and 2.8 acres where the Nimbus Brewery and Town West Design Development are proposing a high-rise and brewery complex. "It has encouraged other people to come in and ask for exclusive rights," Hein said. "Nimbus is probably the last occasion where I would expect something like that to happen."

"Gambling" Downtown
There are a variety of reasons why building Downtown is more expensive, including the need for underground parking, vertical construction and site constraints, Lopez said. The increased cost, coupled with the fact that Downtown has been near-dead for decades, makes developing there equivalent to "gambling," he added.

Doug Biggers, who is working on developing the Rialto block and the Depot Plaza, said it's tough to build Downtown with skyrocketing construction prices, a slowing housing market and skepticism that Tucson can revitalize it urban core the way other cities have done. He said there is also the question of which developer is going to take the risk and stick his neck out first.

Hein said he realizes the margins for projects are thinner Downtown, which is a driving force behind the city asking the Legislature to extend the Rio Nuevo special taxing district from 10 to 40 years. A final Senate vote on the request is expected this week. Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko said the extension would give the city extra money for projects such as a new arena, and it also "shows that the city is not just begging for projects Downtown but is making investments and taking risks, too."
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  #206  
Old Posted Jun 14, 2006, 2:08 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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A call for historic preservation in downtown Tucson:



The Marist College building, adjacent to St. Augustine Cathedral,
at West Ochoa Street and South Church Avenue, continues to deteriorate.




Tarp not enough to save 90-year-old building
City, church officials discuss rehab, future use

By Rob O'Dell
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
06.13.2006

The torn blue tarp that adorns the Marist College building in Downtown Tucson looks like it belongs on the top of a temporary tent. Instead it is the protection from the elements for a crumbling 90-year-old historic adobe building that is deteriorating before everyone's eyes. The tarp, put up last year to protect the building after a piece of it fell off during the last monsoon season, has since split wide open, exposing a crater in the northwest corner of the structure, which is the only three-story adobe building in Southern Arizona, said local architect Bob Vint.

Another monsoon should arrive within weeks. Hoping to save the building from another pounding from Mother Nature, City Councilman Jose Ibarra has put up $24,000 of his ward office money to study how much it will cost to rehabilitate the building and make it safe to occupy. The study should take about three months, and Ibarra wants the city's Department of Urban Planning to do the study to ensure that it is done in a timely manner. The study will "tell us how bad a situation it is," Ibarra said, adding, "We have to do all we can to preserve historic structures Downtown."

"The building is exposed and is only protected by the tarp," Ibarra said, noting that monsoon season is again almost upon us. "We need to get going on this, protect the building and not allow it to fall into more disrepair." John Shaheen, the property and insurance director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, said the building is in its last days. He said the city and the diocese must move quickly and not get caught up in the details on what it may be used for in the future.

"If we don't do something to save it, the point will be moot," Shaheen said of the building. "We're up against time." He estimated it could take $2 million to $3 million to refurbish the building, adding that the president of the Friends of St. Augustine Historic Preservation Project, a private fund-raising group, has been trying to raise money for the project. To date, he said, the group has not raised a substantial amount, only about $70,000.

Shaheen said the church would love to use the building as a museum celebrating the history of Catholicism and other religions in Tucson. However, he said the diocese is open to allowing the building for a public use should the city fix it up — talks he said the diocese has already started with the city. "This is one of the last buildings of its kind around," Shaheen said, noting that many Tucsonans went to Catholic school there. "To lose it would be a tragedy." Ibarra also said talks have been ongoing about what to use the building for, and said it will be designed for some kind of public use should it be refurbished.

The building, at West Ochoa Street and South Church Avenue, adjacent to St. Augustine Cathedral, was once a Catholic school that operated from 1915 to 1968. Vacant since 2002, the building suffered its first major blow last year when the corner of the building peeled off during the rain.

Vint said the diocese hired contractor Means Design and Building Corp. to brace the building last year to keep it from falling apart. Vint said Means is one of the most qualified contractors in the region to work on historic structures and that the building has been well-stabilized with steel beams. He said now that the building is stabilized, the city and the diocese should work toward saving it, because the building is definitely worth keeping. "We don't have anything else like it," Vint said. "It's the biggest mud adobe building in these parts."
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  #207  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 6:21 AM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaneui
Tucson continues to face multiple challenges in its efforts to redevelop its struggling downtown, including a lack of clear guidelines for developer incentives and competitive bidding processes, vague developer plans and agreements, and the uncertainty of future tax incremental funding (TIF) from the state.
One of the bigger problems Tucson development faces is the very low rents. Tucson rents are among the lowest in the country. It makes it hard for rental developments to "pencil out". And when it comes to condos, I don't think there's the "empty nester" market you find in larger cities. It seems like in Tucson, so many of the older folks are from the midwest and have no concept of highrise living--they wouldn't even consider it.
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  #208  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 7:12 AM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
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Originally Posted by somethingfast
Good assessment, Don. I agree completely. I have long had a love/hate relationship with Tucson. I disagree that people view Phoenix as a backwater city to Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, et al. Phoenix is truly emerging as a burgeoning first-tier city, or at least second-tier if you consider NY, Chicago, Washington, LA and San Fran as the only true first-tiers.

You're dead-on that building a cross-town freeway in Tucson will not put us on the verge of Phoenix-to-be. Like you said, the economics and demographics here will never precipiate another Phoenix. Tucson will always play second fiddle to Phoenix and most people are very happy about that.
Can I give you a slightly different perspective?

I'm a snowbird. My primary home of 24 years is in downtown San Francisco in a midrise condo building a block from City Hall. I love urban life and in the SF threads here I glory in the highrises under construction and about to be. Tomorrow I think I'll go watch them pour the foundation for a 645' tower.

But a few years back SF's grey, drippy winters started getting to me so I bought a little place in Green Valley where I can escape them. I had no interest in any part of Phoenix. Phoenix seemed to me like LA without the beach. Tucson seemed of manageable size with the UA and its students to give the place some youthful vigor (and smarts), and enough money to provide good shopping, good restaurants and a reasonable amount of "culture".

I don't see Tucson as a backwater to anywhere. I see it as a place with huge potential that should aspire to the Palm Springs model. With a number of existing resorts and spas, it already does to some extent. But I think it could build on that. More resorts, fancy hotels, spas. Attract more tourism by emphasizing the outdoor lifestyle available in the winter--golf, bicycling and all the rest. To this end, it needs to try to pretty itself up some. Parts of Tucson are depressingly bleak and brown whereas even other desert towns (again, like Palm Springs) have much more extensive low-water-use greenery like palms and oleander everywhere to make things look lush.

People who come to the desert to play don't want to come to a big, sprawling city a la Phoenix. They want a little boutique paradise that takes care of its appearance and has plenty to keep them entertained. To that end, the Flandrau Science Center bridge over I-10 would be a great addition and something that could be featured on innumerable adds about the wonders of playing in Tucson's desert to be aimed at folks in Minneapolis and Chicago and even New York in January.

The most important recent development in Tucson from my perspective isn't a condo or lofts or whatever, it's probably La Encantada ( http://www.tucsonattractions.com/encantada.htm ), a high end shopping center with tenants like an Apple Store, Crate & Barrell, a gourmet grocery (A.J.'s) etc. To me, the willingness of these merchants to finally come to Tucson means they perceive enough people here with MONEY and that's what will attract more development.

One more thing. Tucson does need better public transit even though most people there will always drive. But since it's a major retirement area--thats' also part of the image I see for it--and lots of old folks give up the car keys before they are ready to give up living, they need a way to get around; even get into Tucson from places like Green Valley to go to the doctor, plays and the opera, and out to eat. And these people can afford fairly high transit fares if they would help create the service--money isn't the issue for them.
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  #209  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 5:07 PM
finmqa1 finmqa1 is offline
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I couldn't agree more BTinSF. I have been going to Tucson since a young age, and for the longest time I thought of Tucson as Albuquerque with Palm Trees (and unbearable summers). However La Encantada as well as numerous other projects have actually elevated my perception of Tucson as a more beautiful city than my home town. But the key to Tucson's future, is transportation mainly mass transit. In that regard Albuquerque is way ahead of Tucson. Albuquerque is now adding ABQ Uptown which is bringing retailers like Pottery Barn, Apple, BCBG, and many more not yet announced. I believe both ABQ and Tucson if they plan well, and control sprawl will become two of the most popular cities of the Southwest. Both ABQ and Tucson have much more beautiful natural surrounding than Phoenix and we just need to ensure that we don't continue to swallow up the beautiful desert around us.
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  #210  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 5:16 PM
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Quote:
a high end shopping center with tenants like an Apple Store, Crate & Barrell, a gourmet grocery (A.J.'s) etc.
La Encantada's greatest catches is St. John (a luxury catch that I have no idea how Tuscon got) but has helped La Encantada get Tiffany's, which is opening later this year. Its becoming the major mall in Tuscon with these two ultra-luxury stores paving the road to a future of more luxury.

I think Tuscon is a great place to just relax. Most people in Phoenix look down on it, and most high schoolers choose ASU over it cuz "there is nothing to do in Tuscon." But I have found it to be very relaxing and nice

I am unfamiliar with ABQ's mass transit, what does it have?
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  #211  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 7:05 PM
soleri soleri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobjuba
That would be a really neat bridge, but sorry to burst the bubble, it will never happen. Tucson is too regressive in thier growth and politics to let it happen. The city government will find a way to shoot it down in Cowboy fashion. Having lived in both Tucson and Phoenix I can tell you that is a Phoenix like project, not a Tucson one. The money to do it in Tucson will have to come from a private investor. What would a private investor get out of a project like that? It will never happen.
I'm always perplexed to read this anti-Tucson stuff. Their downtown is a mess but they have done a number of things right. There is housing close by and lots of interesting architecture. The problems - which are very similar to those in Phoenix - is a car-based template that makes urbanism difficult to impossible. It's like trying to breed a city from parking lots and freeways. You can't do it.

Tucson is very alert to the mistakes metro Phoenix has made - and is continuing to make - in promoting any and all sprawl. Unfortunately, the mistakes of the past have very long half lives and continue to haunt our better efforts to construct real cities. We end up building behemoth parking garages in our downtowns only to make the urban landscape more inert. We scrape buildings to create parking lots, in effect killing the city to bring in more cars. And we widen roads for the sake of traffic only to make the urban experience more alien to pedestrians. What's lost is any functional streetscape. In other words, the city itself.

I don't see any point in making life easier for drivers. You can have a city or you can have something like Phoenix. While Tucson is frustrating to get around in, there's at least the possibility of a real city emerging once gas becomes prohibitively expensive, or the Southwestern cities contract in size due to water shortages (not to mention global warming). Don't be afraid to kick a little sand into the gears of the Growth Machine. It deserves it.
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  #212  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 8:09 PM
finmqa1 finmqa1 is offline
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Albuquerque's mass transit system includes ABQ Ride, which last year added Rapid Ride which is the accordian type buses that travel on high traffic routes with fewer stops to increase efficiency and on time performance. The goal for the first year was to have 75,000 riders on Rapid Ride and I believe they came in 2 times that for the first 6 months. The combination of both bus systems make commutes very easy for those willing to park their cars. In 3 weeks Rail Runner express will begin service from Bernalillo to our North down to Belen in the South. http://www.nmrailrunner.com/ In 20908 the city will begin construction on our new light rail/street car project up and down Central connecting to shopping in Uptown and the Airport. Over 1000 new lofts have been built in the city's core, and there will be new loft construction in the uptown area, which is what will make the rail projects successful. And with all our new interchanges/flyovers at Coors and I-40 and the I-25/I-40 (Big I), getting around town in so much easier. Tucson could really benefit from projects like these as well as Phoenix.
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  #213  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2006, 10:09 PM
soleri soleri is offline
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^Tucson and Albuquerque are very similar cities. Their size, the presence of major universities, and "green" political sensibility are commonalities. They each have sprawl, air quality and water issues. One salient difference: the state each city is in. Arizona is much more conservative and makes it difficult for cities to control growth (Tucson has actually tried with its Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan). Land speculators and car dealers more or less control the political process in Tucson now.

Another obvious difference is Tucson's dependence on just one interstate highway. The freeway travels both north/south and east/west, so the development of a crosstown freeway was not prioritized. Now, with the city built up, and traffic snarled, many people regard it as the only solution for their transportation woes. But it would be expensive, kill dozens of Tucson neighborhoods, and essentially cement Tucson's suburban character into place.

Tucson will be building a streetcar line from downtown to the university medical center, about four miles or so. The voters turned down light rail, however, so major street arterials still bear most of the burden. They will be widened under a transportation initiative approved last month. But nearly everyone sees this as merely buying time. At some point, Tucson will have to come to grips with a deferred decision: either focus growth inward, or sprawl according to the preferences of newcomers. If it's the latter, Tucson will opt for freeways.
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  #214  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2006, 3:28 AM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
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Originally Posted by shrek05
most high schoolers choose ASU over it cuz "there is nothing to do in Tuscon."
I don't know. It's at least 2 hours closer to the border and the stream of cars down I-19 on Friday/Saturday evenings suggest the UofA students who are bored in Tucson have found something to do.

But, as a matter of fact, although I finished college in 1967, I find the proximity to Nogales, Sonora another plus for Tucson. Several restaurants and much shopping I enjoy there.
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  #215  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2006, 3:39 AM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
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Originally Posted by soleri
Now, with the city built up, and traffic snarled, many people regard it as the only solution for their transportation woes. But it would be expensive, kill dozens of Tucson neighborhoods, and essentially cement Tucson's suburban character into place.
Tucson should probably forget about a crosstown freeway, but it could very possibly emulate what San Francisco has done with the former Central Freeway (which was damaged so badly in 1989 that it had to be torn down): http://www.sfgov.org/site/octavia_blvd_index.asp?id=235 . Something like this could be done on one of the crosstown streets like Speedway which are very wide. All that's needed is to eliminate as many of the grade-level intersections as possible (and possibly elminating a few by simply not allowing them to intersect the through-traffic lanes) by building underpasses or overpasses or something like that. I think that a grade-seperated intersection was part of a previous transportation plan that was defeated and the merchants at the intersection screamed, but it's a way to speed traffic flow across town without actually building a freeway and destroying neighborhoods.
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  #216  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2006, 4:07 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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It's always encouraging to hear about new redevelopment businesses that get off the ground without public subsidies, and often in spite of bureaucratic red tape and archaic planning and zoning requirements:


Built without city money
By Becky Pallack
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
06.16.2006


Long before the brew-ha-ha over Nimbus moving Downtown, another local microbrewer was busy relocating on the outskirts of Downtown without much notice or city help. Businessman and brewer Dennis Arnold is renovating the old Tucson Prime Meats warehouse, more recently Tucson Warehouse & Transfer Co., on East 16th Street at South Toole Avenue. Arnold has spent seven years and $500,000 creating Barrio Brewing as an expansion of his Gentle Ben's Brewing Co. He twice gave up on the idea because of problems with city zoning rules, Arnold said, but he expects to open by the end of August.

Another local microbrewery, Nimbus Brewing, has been pitched as the primary tenant in Town West Design Development's proposal to build a $40 million high-rise with condos and a brewery on a 2.8-acre lot in a warehouse district on another edge of Downtown, at North Stone Avenue and West Franklin Street. Because the large-scale idea includes a $2.65 million in city subsidies, some of which would be passed on to Nimbus, it has come under scrutiny.

Barrio Brewing hasn't worked with the city's Rio Nuevo office, and received no city money. It is between Armory Park del Sol and the Ice House Lofts, neither of which received city funding. Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko said private-sector investments that don't require government help are a positive indicator. He said he is working to clarify some of the regulatory processes that impede development.

City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff agreed the brewery is a great independent effort. "I'm sorry it's taken so long, but I'm really pleased that they're about to open," Trasoff said. "I think there's a different attitude now, a commitment to working as hard as we can to facilitate these kinds of projects Downtown."

Cold room a big plus
The old warehouse — with its corrugated metal walls and big truck bays — may not look like much to most people, but it's Arnold's dream. "It's a building only a brewer could love," said Arnold, 46, a Tucson native who is president, owner and oftentimes brewer at Gentle Ben's. That's because the warehouse came with a 4,000-square-foot cold room, where he'll move his microbrew equipment from the campus-area eatery to the new brewpub at 800 E. 16th St. in the coming weeks. He started renovating the building in January.

Barrio Brewing bought the building in 1999 — the year Tucson voters approved funding Rio Nuevo — for $280,000. Then it took three years to resolve zoning issues associated with a wholesale brewery, the category it falls in because Arnold plans to sell 80-gallon kegs of beer back to to Gentle Ben's. Several different plans were presented to the City Council over a couple of years. The solution: The city allowed the brewery to have two different zones in the same building.

Then there was the parking problem. The city's rules required a set number of parking spaces per square foot, adding up to 360 parking spaces, while the restaurant will only seat 80 people, Arnold said. A variance allowed it to cut the parking number in half, but with no available lots in the neighborhood, the Barrio Brewing idea stalled.

Arnold said he and his wife, Tauna, "were just ready to write it off." Finally, in 2004 with new owners at Rainbo Baking, 827 E. 17th St., Arnold leased some parking spaces, and Arnold could show the city board he met its requirements. "It took us three years to line up parking we'll never use," he said.


By the end of 2005, they were ready to give up again. Arnold said their architect went to the city offices to take back his plans when he was told the plan was approved. "You get so blindsided by the wrestling match between logic and law," Arnold said. He figures he has put $500,000 into the project, including the cost of the building and renovation. Councilman José Ibarra called the delays disappointing. "Here is a small business that wants to participate Downtown and they've had to wait this long to open," he said. "It really shows us that we need to fully embrace such projects and fast-track them."

"I'm glad they've been persistent," said Donovan Durband, executive director of the Tucson Downtown Alliance Inc, a non-profit business group. With the 17th Street Market a block away, it could become a destination spot, he said. Jason Mullins, owner of Rocks & Ropes, a block away at 330 S. Toole Ave., said he hopes the restaurant will attract more traffic and business to the outskirts of Downtown.

The building still has a way to go. On Wednesday, stacks of lumber sat where the bar will be and workers were redoing parts of the building's electrical systems. Arnold said he will make his August opening date with an eclectic menu in the $5 to $10 range. Gentle Ben's, 865 E. University Blvd., isn't going anywhere. In fact, the 800-seat restaurant will get a pizza kitchen where the brew tanks used to be, and possibly a private meeting room in the cellar, Arnold said.
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  #217  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2006, 4:21 AM
soleri soleri is offline
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I went to hear Jon Talton speak Wednesday and he mentioned the absurd obstacle courses the city bureaucracy makes small businessmen negotiate. It makes me think that both downtowns, Phoenix and Tucson, ought to be enterprise zones where the red tape is curtailed as much as possible. Parking, in particular, needs to addressed in ways that facilitates rather than hinders the opening of small businesses.

When I was at UofA back in the 1970s, Gentle Ben's was already an institution. Good to see it's still running, keeping students lubricated and a positive force for downtown too. Tucson is so close to really being cool.
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  #218  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2006, 5:24 AM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
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Tucson required 360 parking spaces for a brew pub?? I can think of 3 or 4 such places in SF with a total of ZERO spaces for all of them. People who insist on driving there (not a good idea to go have a bunch of brews anyway), park somewhere else, but using public trans (I know, Tucson doesn't have that) is encouraged.

What I get out of all this is that Tucson needs to start thinking like a grown up city. I can see that the owner of the brewery would probably want some parking because in reality most of his customers are probably going to drive and want a convenient place to park, but making him have more than he thinks he needs?? I frankly can't comprehend why they would do that.
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  #219  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2006, 12:52 PM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Maybe Tucson officials will get serious about elimiinating some of the roadblocks to new redevelopment downtown. (And if the city does decide to build more parking structures, hopefully they will have street-level retail like the new Pennington garage, fostering a more pedestrian-friendly ambiance.)


Downtown building rules in flux
Goal is to quicken development as City Council reviews standards

By Rob O'Dell
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
06.18.2006

Parking, parking, parking. It's what residents complain there is a lack of Downtown. And it's what developers say the city requires too much of, blocking their projects from being built quickly and successfully. On Tuesday, the City Council will take the first steps toward solving the parking conundrum as part of a plan to ease some zoning and development standards Downtown and speed the review of developers' plans.

The hope is they will speed up the seemingly watch-the-paint-dry pace of many projects Downtown and expedite mixed-use development in the city's core. A new Downtown zone being considered will allow developers to bypass some of the constraints they say have been impediments to building Downtown — including parking, loading zones and set-backs from the street.
Reduced parking requirements are just the start. A second incentive will come later this summer to let developers to pay a fee instead of having to build parking with their projects at all.

The new rules will allow developers to get a quick review from the city's development services director, instead of taking their projects to the city's Board of Adjustment to get a variance. Jaret Barr, the assistant to City Manager Mike Hein, said the city's code is geared toward suburban uses and doesn't have sections for tall urban buildings in it. As a result, he said the city has very little wiggle room to get around its own development code — which he said holds up the development of larger buildings because they don't meet the design code for suburban use.

Barr said the goal is not to waive all standards for Downtown development, but instead to allow for smaller waivers of the code "when it makes sense." He said that could mean cutting a few parking spots or waiving the set-back restrictions.The new rules will be reviewed in a year to gauge their effectiveness.

Randi Dorman, one of the developers of the Ice House Lofts, 1001 E. 17th St., said she and her partners may have already been under construction on another mixed-use project with more than 30 condominiums and retail space at the corner of South Stone Avenue and Broadway if the new rules had already been in place. Instead, she said the development was hindered by the fact the project needed a separate loading zone even though there is a loading zone adjacent to the site on Stone Avenue. Additionally, the developers wanted to provide only one parking spot per condominium instead of the two that are required by code.

They needed a variance for each. But that takes time. Dorman said she and her partners couldn't wait. "It should have been a no-brainer," Dorman said. "If there's any hope of succeeding Downtown, the code needs to be changed," Dorman said.

Dennis Arnold, the owner of Gentle Ben's near the University of Arizona Main Gate, is also opening Barrio Brewing southeast of Downtown later this year. He said he has seen both the good and the bad of what the new rules — dubbed an overlay zone — can do. Arnold said he had terrible parking problems that nearly caused him to give up pursuit of Barrio Brewing because the parking requirement based on the size of his building was 360 parking spaces, while the restaurant portion will seat only 80 people, Arnold said. A variance cut the parking number in half, but Arnold said the proposed new rules could have been a help.

But there is a potential backlash from changing the rules, he warned, pointing to the UA Main Gate area where similar rules were put into place years ago, as an example. "Originally, it is a good idea, but at some point it will be come abused like it has in the West University area," Arnold said of the new rules. "There's a point where it kind of goes backwards. … I've seen it in action." He said Tucsonans don't want to pay for parking, and the lack of parking requirements in the Main Gate area has hurt tenants and caused a great amount of turnover there. Arnold said an overlay zone can help jump-start an area, but said the relaxed standards need to be scaled back once the area gets to be more successful.

City-built garages a possibility
Relaxing the restrictions on Downtown development is just the first planned foray into helping developers build Downtown. A second planned incentive is to waive the parking requirements for projects entirely, and allow developers to pay a $10,000 in-lieu fee for every required parking space they don't build. Barr said he expects the issue to come up later this summer.

Councilman Steve Leal said the goal is to waive the parking requirements and have the city build three or four parking garages strategically around the Downtown area to provide adequate parking. Humberto Lopez, owner of the Hotel Arizona, said parking is the single biggest obstruction to building Downtown, and said the idea of the city providing the parking garages so developers don't have to is a real way to spur development Downtown. Arnold said that as long as it's an open discussion that taxpayers are subsidizing private development by building parking garages for their customers to park, then building them is not a bad idea.
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  #220  
Old Posted Jun 19, 2006, 3:31 PM
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somethingfast somethingfast is offline
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Tucson has the most boring DT "news". Seriously, the articles above are appreciated by us local skyscraper aficionados, but, dang, somebody get me outta this boring 'burg!
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