Growing pains in downtown Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There is no argument that downtown Tucson is flourishing with new businesses, restaurants, student housing and transportation.

No one expected the growth to come without some pain.

And that pain is especially acute in parking.

Curb side parking has been a feature in downtown for as long as anyone can remember.

Pull in front of Hydra, buy what you need and run out.

Convenient for the customer, profitable to the business.

But now there are new players in town.

The modern streetcar route eliminated about 43% of curbside parking downtown.

And now, on top of that hit, there's another trend taking a parking toll.

Outside dining.

It's all the rage in Tucson and appears in upscale downtown areas all across the country.

Tucson, however, has very limited space, especially along Congress.

To make sure there's enough room for the streetcar, passing motorists and pedestrians, the only solution is to eliminate some parking spaces.

But downtown merchants are not pleased about that, saying it will cost them customers.

Kade Mislinski says however, it's good for his.

The city took out four spaces in front on his Hub restaurant so he can offer outdoor dining as soon as the downtown streetcar runs.

"We talked about it, the four spaces, the pros and cons" he says. "and we can create more revenue."

Not only for his business, but sales tax revenues for the city which will more than pay for the loss of parking.

A new restaurant next door will do the same.

Others are requesting the same treatment.

But now, Parkwise has asked for a 90 day moratorium on any new agreements to help buy some time.

After two hour long meetings with concerned parties, there's no consensus about how to solve the issue and make everyone happy.

"We as a city are going to have to make trade-offs," Mike Holmes, CEO of Imagine Greater Tucson said. "There was a time when no one went downtown."

But now, it's elbow to elbow on some nights and a thousand new residents arrive next month when the new student housing opens.

Problems are not going to get any easier to solve.

The 4th Avenue Merchants Association sent a letter to Parkwise saying,"retail, bars or restaurants are likely to welcome additional prime frontage space. If allowed to unconditionally be installed, they could wipe out a significant portion of our viable parking."

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