Downtown Tucson develops unevenly - Tucson News Now

Downtown Tucson develops unevenly

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Growth is rarely linear. It's generally hopscotch in nature despite the best efforts of planners.

A good example of that is downtown Tucson.

The east side is growing faster and better than anyone could have imagined four years ago.

The west side is lagging far behind despite 15 years of efforts by the City of Tucson and Rio Nuevo.

The city spent millions of dollars to mitigate landfill damage and prepare the land for growth that never happened. 

The east side of downtown is celebrating nearly a billion dollars in public and private investment.

The east end benefited from a decision by the University of Arizona to expand to the downtown area since there is very little room on campus.

Demand has driven the growth.

That demand has not materialized on the west side and that's keeping the area depressed.

In the just released report from the Urban Land Institute, there is some concern whether Tucson can continue to sustain the growth downtown.

The concern is a lack of cooperation among the various jurisdictions like the city and county along with other agencies such as TREO.

Tucson has a reputation of different agencies going in different directions.

"That is absolutely our regional Achilles heel," said Ward VI Tucson city council member Steve Kozachik. "We sit at a table together and it turns into a circular firing squad."

The report, which was paid for in a cooperative mood among several groups, including the city and county, says the development will "only occur if the city leads a diverse group of stakeholders" and moves together "as one community."

That will be difficult according to the report given "the people of Tucson's skepticism about government and local development."

Much of that mistrust was developed because of the mis-steps of Rio Nuevo from 1999 to 2013.

""We have to earn that trust back," Kozachik said.

That won't happen in the present atmosphere.

"We have to stop with the different agendas, we have to stop who gets credit for what," said Margo Susco, owner of Hydra Leather & More in downtown. "We need a vision for downtown and come together to make that vision happen."

Hydra was one of the stores mentioned in the report citing it as an example of what downtown should strive for.

Unique, independent and affordable.

"I'm so proud they mentioned us," Susco said. 

She said they've survived downtown for 20 years by being visionary and not trying to be something they're not.

The report says downtown is top heavy with government and is not sure downtown restaurants can survive without a better mix.

Kozachik agrees the number of high end restaurants could be an issue.

"We ought to be looking to bring in lower price points that students downtown can afford," he said.

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