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Downtown Tucson hitting greatest stride in last 50 years

By Bud Foster of KOLD News 13

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Downtown Tucson redevelopment has made its greatest strides in at least a half a century.

Many of the new projects started in 2017 are very visible, such as the senior housing project at Broadway and Church. Or the new AC Marriott Hotel at 5th and Broadway.

There are a handful of other projects just on the horizon.

Park City, which brings a unique food court/business development to downtown will open its doors mid-2018. Caterpillar, still housed downtown, is awaiting a new $53 million surface mining headquarters in the shadow of downtown.

Nearly a billion dollars in new private/public investment is changing the landscape in downtown.

"Nov. 4, 1994 is when we opened" said Margo Susco, owner of Hydra at 145 E. Congress.

Susco has decided to go in another direction and will close at the end of the year 2017.

"I think it's an art and a gift to know when to say when," she said. "So I'm saying when."

There is no one thing which compelled her to close Hydra at a time when downtown is booming but she said it's time.

She said the changes she's seen in downtown are nothing short of incredible.

When she moved in, downtown was an arts community and she said she knows there are still bitter feelings about how they were driven out of downtown by increased rents and regulations.

But she said she still feels despite all the growth in downtown, the arts are missing.

"I think art galleries lend a certain amount of sophistication," she said. "We want to keep downtown interesting and that's what arts do for you."

She said the feel downtown is different than what it used to be.

"Back in the day, downtown for me was a bit more merchant driven," she said. "Now its driven a bit more by revenue, a bit more about developers."

She also hastens to add that's not all bad because it's the revenue which drives downtown now.

"We can't lose our sense of community because where small enough where that's truly important," she said. "We need a mix, maybe one or two on Congress but we should all working together, it shouldn't be all about the money."

Susco has been a driving force in the downtown she leaves behind.

At the corner of Scott and Congress, work has begun on a Starbucks. The buildings owner didn't confirm it's going in, but most people in downtown regard it as a not very well-kept secret.

"Starbucks goes on numbers and now they're searching critical mass and so they'll come in," she said. "Those of us who have been here, we're pretty proud of that."

When the streetcar was built in 2013, she was outspoken about the damage two years of construction would have on downtown merchants and hoped for better communications with the city of Tucson.

It did come, but not without a fight.

"We were all scared," she said. "We needed for them to let us know what was going on."

Now that the streetcar is behind her, she sees its importance to the vitality of downtown and how its spurred economic growth.

"It's connected all of us," she said. "And that's good for business."

But she also fears downtown in driven by bars and nightclubs, nightlife.

"I do hope they start paying attention to our daytime," she added.

Because tourists are looking for more than nightlife, they are looking for other attractions.

But nowhere on any list of downtown development projects is there a new art gallery or museum.


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