Bond projects could change downtown landscape

Bond projects could change downtown landscape

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - At least two of the projects on Pima County's bond wish list hold the possibility of changing downtown Tucson's landscape.

The two projects are relatively new to the bond project, so comprehensive details are hard to come by.

One of the projects is known as the Stravenue/Wilde Way Urban Design Project.

It would include moving the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography and it's Museum of Art downtown.

With the historic domed county complex downtown about to become vacant because the offices are moving to the new courthouse, the hope is to remodel, renovate and repurpose it.

The building, along with Leo Rich Theater, TCC and Symphony hall could be connected in what would be known as a cultural center.

The price tag, $100 million.

That project could be joined by a new ten story business and academic center at Broadway and Scott, across the street from the new TEP corporate headquarters.

Price tag on that, $70 million.

"These are new projects, so we are very much working on the details for those projects," says Nicole Fyffe, an assistant in the county administrator's office.

The projects are included in the county's bond survey because it is trying to find out if "people are interest in the general concept and if so, we'll continue to flesh them out," Fyffe says.

The last time the county held a bond election was 2004. It's trying to determine if there is enough interest and will to move ahead with an election next year, 2014.

The wish list was compiled in 2004 for $650 million but has grown to $1.3 billion. Cost is certainly a consideration and one reason the list is being whittled down to the original $650 million.

In 2004, "we estimated it, to the average household. $4 a month to pay for about $580 million in bonds," Fyffe says.

It would have to be reconfigured to see if the numbers remain the same, are more or less, but that's the closest estimate they have now.

Many of the projects on the list are parks, outdoor or culturally related.

The big road and sewage projects don't appear because they are now funded by different sources.

Whether the public will buy a lifestyle bond issue, is a concern.

Consultations with local jurisdictions and community organizations resulted in more requests than could be funded, so an online survey was created that will help the county identify the projects that you feel are most needed.

The survey, which will be available until Aug. 9, can be found here:

Proposals submitted to date to the Pima County Bond Advisory Committee, are grouped into five primary areas in the survey:

  • Historic, cultural and natural area conservation
  • Public health, flood control, neighborhood reinvestment and governmental facilities
  • Libraries, museums and community facilities
  • Job growth, education and workforce training
  • Parks and recreation

Pima County has not held a bond election in seven years even though one was contemplated for 2008, pushed back until 2012, but not will likely be held next year.

Pima County emphasizes it has one of the lowest per capita debts of any county of municipality in the state, including half the debt of Tucson.

A state auditor general's report last year praised the county for its bond program. The audit was asked for by a group of state lawmakers who suspected there may be a county debt problem. Instead the audit gave the county a reason for optimism when asking for a new bond election.

It includes projects all over the county including the City of Tucson, Marana, Sahuarita and Ajo to name a few. All the projects are listed in the survey.

They include possible noise mitigation for Davis Monthan Air Base especially if the Air Force decides to base some of its new F-35 fighter jets here.

Much smaller things, like rehabbing the community center in the town of Ajo.

Or a performing arts center is Marana.

Purchasing open space, fixing up parks, road construction and quality of life issues are near the top of the list.

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