TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Demolition crews estimate it will take about three months to level La Placita Village in downtown Tucson to make way for a new 250-unit apartment complex called "The Flin."
HSL Properties, the owner of La Placita, says the apartments will be market rate, which is badly needed downtown.
La Placita Village was part of an urban renewal project which started downtown in the 1960s and carried over into the 1970s.
Si Schorr, a prominent real estate attorney, was part of the city's planning department at the time and remembers several proposals for the site which never came to fruition, such as a Diamond's Department Store.
His plans, which included mixed use of retail and housing were shelved at the time. Finally, in the 1970s, a group of developers put together a plan to build an office complex that became La Placita.
"We anticipated it would be successful," Schorr said. "We figured the developers who were doing it knew what they were doing."
But that was not the case.
"It was not properly planned," he said. "This site was a problem from day one."
The project languished for years never living up to its expectations.
"It was a failure," Schorr said. "It did not succeed."
But one area it did succeed in was becoming a landmark in downtown Tucson.
Nearly 20 years ago, a Texas developer painted the complex a variety of red hues, blues, greens, yellows in order to give it a second chance and draw attention.
It did get attention but never enough to put it over the top.
"That was an attempt to give it new life, rejuvenation," Schorr said. "It really didn't work."
Many offices in the complex were never leased to full capacity and it became a running joke about people going in but never coming out.
"It was built like a maze," said Dave, a Pima County employee, who visited the complex often. "It was very hard to find places in there, like you needed a piece of cheese to find an office."
For others, the colors gave a brilliance to an otherwise fairly dull Tucson downtown landscape.
"There are some angles and colors," said John Banks, a local photographer who was shooting pictures of the demolition. "I always had fun coming down taking pictures."
He felt La Placita was dull in its original beige colors but when it was painted "it took on a different character I think."
While Banks says he will miss the buildings "I will always have my photographs and that's what's important."
For Schorr, building housing on the site was important years ago but is imperative now.
"The lack of housing has always held back downtown's potential," he said. "Especially market rate housing."
Crews were in the area last week doing prep work for the demolition, which began at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 5.
For many folks, it was a bittersweet day as the buildings are torn down.
Kay Bain works downtown and has lived in Tucson for 20 years. She recently said the buildings are a significant part of the Old Pueblo.
"I'm gonna really miss it because right now I'm headed over there to eat my lunch and I just ... I love that area over there. And this'll probably be the last time I'll be eating my lunch there," she said.
Bain said she's excited for the new development, but admits she'll miss seeing the vibrant buildings.
"I just like seeing them every day, and I like the colors. It'll be interesting if they put shops in. I hope it's shops that people who work here can go to," she said.