Jun 30, 2017

Two more projects prove downtown Tucson is thriving

By Bud Foster, March 14th 2017

Two new projects in downtown Tucson are keeping the forward momentum alive, according to local business and government officials.

There was a ribbon cutting for a new Greyhound Bus terminal at Euclid and Broadway and a quiet ground breaking for City Park at Congress and Stone on Tuesday, March 14.

City Park is a $19-million, five-story food hall, entertainment center and business complex which will sit on a half-acre parcel that has been vacant for nearly 13 years.

“Hopefully, when we’re done, everybody is going to feel this was worth the wait,” developer Don Bourn said.

Bourn said the development would not have been possible two or three years ago. He said things downtown have changed so rapidly downtown, it’s now viable.

The first floor will be a food hall, something which has become popular in larger, metropolitan cities across the country. It will feature 12-15 food vendors in fairly small spaces.

Each end will be anchored by a restaurant with outdoor patios.

The second floor will be an entertainment venue consisting of six lanes of bowling, a bar, pinball arcade and other amenities.

The upper floors will contain open office space culminating in a roof top 3,000 square foot deck, which can be used for live entertainment or outdoor parties.

“It’s an unconventional project by Tucson standards,” he said.

But with a half dozen housing projects, a new hotel, a second in the works, Caterpillar next door and the streetcar on line, the time may have come for a venue such as this.

The city of Tucson sold Bourn the property for $100 in 2004 and had proposed several housing projects for the site that never materialized, in part because of the recession and in part, because banks were not willing to lend.

But Bourn said developments go through many “iterations” because of the economics, financing and return on investment.

“This is one of most challenging projects we’ve ever done,” he said. “Certainly not nearly the largest project but one of the more challenging.”

The second project on the radar was a ribbon cutting officially opening the new Greyhound Bus terminal at Broadway and Euclid.

It fulfills a promise Tucson made to Greyhound 15 years ago that the old trailer at Congress and Interstate 10 would be temporary. Although it was Rio Nuevo that paid the $1.1 million for the new terminal.

For Greyhound, it’s a great move because now it’s just a stone’s throw from downtown and only three blocks from the University of Arizona, it’s biggest customer base.

“We realize that students represent over 15 to 20 percent of our population of riders,” said Myron Watkins, the customer service representative for the company. “It’s a growing segment of our ridership so it is certainly something we are targeting.”

Watkins said it’s not just Tucson but a nationwide trend which is why buses are now equipped with free wireless access, outlets and adjustable leather seats.

Rio Nuevo will also lease the terminal to Greyhound over a 20-year period, the first building Rio Nuevo built on a lease back plan. Caterpillar is the other, a $52 million project.

In both cases, Rio Nuevo will end up with a profit.

Rio Nuevo also put millions of dollars into the City Park project and the AC Marriott project, which will open in August downtown.

Rio Nuevo, it seems, has become what was envisioned when voters overwhelmingly approved it nearly 20 years ago.

And with that, downtown continues to thrive.

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