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Old Posted Nov 20, 2005, 8:00 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Higher costs and delays in obtaining basic construction materials are beginning to significantly affect Tucson's and Arizona's main economic engine: home building.

Cement shortage grows worse
Marana plant problem cuts supplies further, slows building, causes layoffs

By Joseph Barrios and Thomas Stauffer

A long-standing shortage of cement turned much worse for Tucson's construction industry this month, leading to layoffs of workers and delays in projects.

The shortage hasn't been this bad since the 1970s
, when some companies simply couldn't get cement, said Terry Carson, owner of Benchmark Concrete Co.

Cement is the main ingredient in concrete, an essential construction material that literally forms the foundation of new buildings, among other uses.

"Everybody's stressing on the deal," Carson said, because in construction "everything revolves around the concrete."

Carson said the shortage forced him to lay off six of his 48 workers. Other companies also foresee layoffs.

Among other projects, large and small, delayed by the shortage is the new Alvernon bridge across the Rillito River, intended to relieve congestion on North Swan Road and North Campbell Avenue.

Over the last few weeks, workers had begun pouring sections of the bridge, but now they have stopped because available supplies of concrete have been cut in half, said Brian Andrews, project manager for Ashton Construction.

In the meantime, some workers find themselves with less than 40 hours of work per week because there aren't enough supplies to work with.

"A lot of our people have been moved around to try and keep them busy," Andrews said. "If this keeps up, we'll have no choice but to stop and send people home."

Another victim of the shortage is Richard Marschner, a buyer of a house at Franklin Court, a new development Downtown at West Franklin Street and North Court Avenue.

Builder Michael Keith originally installed a concrete sidewalk to Marschner's garage, but the slope was a bit severe, so Keith agreed to redo it, Marschner said.

Workers removed the existing sidewalk to make room for the new one, Marschner said. But "the concrete never showed up," he said. "It's just dirt."

The "pour" of Marschner's sidewalk is now scheduled for Nov. 29, about a month late.

Said Carson, of Benchmark Concrete: "I've been having conversations with my customers and telling them, 'If you miss a scheduled pour date, then it's going to be weeks before we can get back to pour it.' Right now, I'm scheduling into January."

The problem comes after the price of cement had already more than doubled from March 2002 to March 2005, from $200 per cubic yard to $450.

"Costs have risen dramatically over the last year," said Tommy Roof, president of T.L. Roof & Associates Construction Co.

That's contributed to the higher prices customers are paying for new homes, analysts have said.

Kiln shut down

The immediate cause of the shortage was the Nov. 1 shutdown of the main kiln at Arizona Portland Cement in Marana. The brick lining of the kiln, a 150-foot-long rotating oven that bakes raw materials to turn them into cement, had to be replaced, said Craig Starkey, senior vice president for the company.

That kiln returned to production just two days later.

But the damage was already done, creating a backlog that will likely last for weeks, Carson said.

Arizona Portland Cement, 11115 N. Casa Grande Highway, is the supplier of cement for most of the concrete used in Tucson-area construction. It is also one of two facilities in Arizona that together produce most of the cement used in the state. The other is near Clarkdale in Northern Arizona.

Supplies are supplemented by shipments from California and Mexico.

The Marana plant runs non-stop and produces about 1.4 million tons of cement a year, Starkey said. But it had nearly exhausted its inventory when the kiln was shut down.

The problem is not limited to Arizona, said John Bloom, chief economist for Cemex of Mexico's U.S. operations. Cemex is one of three Tucson-area suppliers of ready-mix concrete.

"All producers are sold out, and inventories are at rock-bottom levels. Whenever you have a disruption at a plant, it's very difficult to meet the demands in the short term," Bloom said.

Demand for cement in Arizona is up 13 percent this year over last, Bloom said, citing U.S. Geological Survey statistics. Growth in other countries, especially China, had already worsened the shortage here. China uses roughly 800 million tons of cement a year, he said, compared with 119 million tons used in the United States.

Two factors could help

Construction-industry officials point to two possible moves that could help alleviate the backlog.

One is an expansion of Arizona Portland Cement. The company has wanted to expand since 1998 but has not been able to get approval from federal and state officials because of environmental concerns.

The company is "getting closer" to making a proposal that might prove successful, said Starkey of Arizona Portland Cement.

The other issue is a 55 percent tariff imposed on cement imported from Mexico. U.S. officials imposed it after accusing Mexico of "dumping" cement on the U.S. market at below-cost prices.

"You can't really separate the shortage from the dumping dispute," said Rick Shapiro, executive vice president of public affairs for Cemex in the U.S.

Cemex, which produces cement in Mexico, has been lobbying the governors of Western and Southern U.S. states, urging them to support rescinding the tariff. If the tariff is lifted, Cemex would likely ship more cement from its plant in Hermosillo, Sonora, to this country.

Last month, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to urge that the tariff be lifted.

Cemex officials have also asked Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to sign on, but so far she has not.

Spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said the governor generally supports free trade and lower tariffs but also wants to protect "Arizona interests," which include some tribes that hold interests in cement companies.

The cement shortage is leading builder Keith to seek out alternatives to concrete.

"My thoughts for the next project are that I'll go with wood floors. I'll go back to the way they built the Cheyney House, where you have wood floors about eight inches off the dirt," Keith said, referring to a 100-year-old Downtown home.

"Strangely enough, it may get to the point where wood floors are cheaper than concrete, and it may even have already gotten to that point."
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2005, 8:25 AM
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Sprawling suburban Sahuarita wants to keep its rural ambiance, but with all the urban conveniences:

Sahuarita goes shopping
Centers going up and expanding as they prepare to serve booming town

By Levi J. Long

New activity is stirring beyond Sahuarita's mature pecan groves and its exploding subdivisions.

On the town's southwestern edge, five new shopping centers are either getting ready to break ground or will expand in the next two years. Along Duval Mine Road, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter is scheduled to open by February, replacing an older Wal-Mart in the town. So far, Walgreens, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Carl's Jr., Fletcher's Tire & Auto, and a gas station have all signed leases or purchased pads at the shopping center.

Farther south, more development is happening, as more than 12,000 square feet of retail space is being added to the Safeway Shopping Center at 1301 W. Duval Mine Road. A full-service restaurant, a nail salon and a hair salon, are expected to occupy the space and open by January.

The commercial development responds to the hopes of town residents, whose numbers have swollen from about 3,000 in 1999 to approaching 13,000 today. A survey by the town government, which included responses from nearby Green Valley, showed that locals really want to shop near home. They listed as priorities a department store, a home-improvement store, an outlet store and a specialty foods store.

Some residents, like Aaron Brown 35, a four-year resident of Rancho Sahuarita, have even simpler hopes.

"One of the things we really need is a gas station and convenience store," Brown said.

Recruiting businesses pays off

Brown's getting that and much more, thanks in part to the laws of supply and demand, but also to the efforts of town officials and business people.

For the past two years, the town of Sahuarita and developers of nearby subdivisions have been reaching out to regional business leaders and retail companies, recruiting businesses and services for the town's growing population.

This year the town hired Kathy Ward to devise a strategic economic development plan. She said long-term plans call for diversifying the local economy and bringing high-wage jobs to the area.

"But for now, we're concentrating on the short-term economic needs," Ward said.

And that means stores and services.

The national economy has been good for retailers looking to expand and build new stores, Ward said.

"It's just a matter of attracting the stores here, and getting onto their radar," Ward said.

An old Kmart building has been leased to a new home-furnishings store, moving in by the end of the year.

Sahuarita Plaza, on Duval Mine Road, was recently bought by three Tucson partners. They are currently negotiating leases for the existing Wal-Mart space and are planning a new facade and plan to add new landscaping.

Another 19 acres across Duval Mine Road just closed escrow for another shopping center. Development plans are in the process and the center may have a national retailer as an anchor tenant.

24-acre "village"

In addition to these shopping centers on the southwestern edge of town, a new 24-acre retail development, near I-19 on the northeast corner of Rancho Sahuarita Boulevard and Sahuarita Road, is expected to break ground in early 2007.

The Village at Rancho Sahuarita, an "urban retail village" with restaurants, retail stores, and entertainment venues will be part of the Rancho Sahuarita Marketplace, which will be anchored by a 104,000-square-foot grocery store.

Court Chalfant, senior vice-president of the Sahuarita Companies, which is developing the project, said there has been tremendous demand from both residents and retailers.

"We haven't done much to recruit retailers," he said. "We have a long list of people, waiting to get in."

Chalfant declined to say which retailers they would like to attract, but said they have taken note of a 2004 survey conducted by the town of Sahuarita's Economic Development Commission.

The survey asked Green Valley and Sahuarita residents, what kinds of retail stores and restaurants they would like to see built. Some names mentioned in the survey included the Olive Garden, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Trader Joe's and Barnes & Noble.

Serving residents isn't the town's sole motive for helping bring retailers to town. Tax revenue figures show that since 2000, while population has quadrupled, sales tax revenue has not risen proportionally, which suggests that residents are making purchases outside town.

Looking for sales tax revenue

"The Town Council recognizes that increased sales tax revenues are a key factor in the town's ability to continue to provide excellent service to its residents," said Mayor Charles E. Olham.

Sahuarita's growth has been anchored by Rancho Sahuarita, which accounts for about 55 percent of the town's population. The master-planned community plans to add 11,660 new homes in the next five years.

The other master-planned communities of Quail Creek, Stone House and Madera Highlands, are also adding more than 6,400 new homes to the town. And looming in the future is another master-planned development of 10,000 new homes, expected to break ground outside the town in the next few years.

By 2010, town officials estimate that more than 26,000 people will reside in Sahuarita. And an estimate by the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), said by 2025 more than 250,000 people could live in the region south of Tucson, an area of land outlined as far as east as Arizona 83 and south to Sahuarita Road, a figure Ward said isn't so far-fetched.

"Right now, we're booming, which is good for the area. But we still have a lot of planning to do to get ready for the future," Ward said.

And though most residents and town officials want to keep the area's rural feel, they understand that growth is inevitable, and in some ways desirable.

"I'm torn," said Tom Brunner, a 57-year-old resident of the Los Colonia development. "On one hand, I'd like it to stay small. But I would like to see a Circuit City in the area."
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Old Posted Nov 25, 2005, 9:07 AM
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Although $3.5M will help, Tucson and UofA will need a lot more money to get the proposed science center/bridge built, whose final cost may top $200M with the current design:

Rio Nuevo bridge project gets $3.5M funding boost
By Sarah J. Bell

The Bridge of Knowledge project, a part of the University of Arizona Science Center at Rio Nuevo, has received a $3.5 million boost in federal funding.

The project, an arch and suspension pedestrian bridge spanning Interstate 10 and the Santa Cruz River, will link the science center on the west side of the river to Downtown.

"It is a time when everybody is cutting back and here we are getting this contribution," said Alexis Faust, Flandreau Science Center executive director. "We couldn't be more delighted."

Faust said Arizona U.S. Reps. Jim Kolbe, Ed Pastor, Raúl Grijalva and Sen. Jon Kyl were instrumental in securing the federal windfall.

While Faust said project costs have not been nailed down, she said the federal contribution will be added to money earmarked for construction. Construction is anticipated to begin within a year, Faust said, noting that it could take four years from design to completion.

Increasing construction costs are a concern, she said.

"We are definitely being as aggressive as possible about meeting additional budget demands to ensure that this project go forward," Faust said.

Last year, the federal government provided $500,000 in project funding.

Funding has also been supported by the Arizona Board of Regents, which approved bond funding of $73 million for the center.

The city has committed to contributing $20 million from the Rio Nuevo project approved by voters in 1999. Another $20 million in private endowment money is expected, along with private donations and government funds related to the widening of the interstate and restoration of the Santa Cruz River.
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Old Posted Nov 25, 2005, 9:24 AM
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Another "cart before the horse" story: the city of Tucson is determined to get a supermarket downtown before there are enough residents to support one, according to developers. (For comparison: downtown L.A., with a population of 25,000 projected to double within five years, is just getting its first supermarket next spring.)

Grocery plan for Downtown falls through
By Rob O'Dell

Tucson has dissolved an exclusive agreement with a developer attempting to build a grocery store Downtown, opening up the 13-acre site at West 22nd Street and Interstate 10 for other developers.

The city will solicit proposals in early 2006 to give developers the chance to pitch a new plan for the property, said Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson.

"All good intentions aside, we have collectively not been successful" in getting a project built on the site despite a four-year effort, she said.

In 2001 the city selected Bourn Partners to develop the property as a shopping center with a grocery store as an anchor. The city originally hoped to attract a store there by 2002, but Bourn officials said this summer that they may not have the location developed until 2009.

The city received several inquiries from developers looking to acquire and build on the property, Thoreson said, but couldn't talk to them because of a sole negotiating agreement with Bourn. She declined to identify the developers who expressed interest.

Thoreson said the anchor for the property has "always been envisioned as a grocery store" because Downtown-area residents have often said one is sorely needed.

She said the hope is a group of new developers bidding for the project, along with an increase in housing Downtown, will brighten the prospects for the property being developed.

"A larger number of developers and more optimism for Downtown will help the project," Thoreson said.

She wouldn't, however, give a new timeline for the project other than to say a new request for proposals will go out in early 2006.

Paul Schloss, a principal with Bourn Partners, said the area's demographics simply don't support a grocery store yet, and won't until about 2009.

"It's not at a critical mass to make it work," he said. "It's a function of timing. They're trying to build the center before the area is ready."

He said Bourn has spoken at length with grocery chains Albertsons, Safeway, Fry's and Bashas', but all the chains weren't yet willing to commit to the property. He said Albertsons is for sale and Safeway has several nearby stores, while Fry's and Bashas' weren't yet interested in locating there.

Mayor Bob Walkup said he sees the spot at the Interstate 10 frontage road and West 22nd Street as a prime location for a new shopping center.

Despite the fact that the city ran into roadblocks with the current proposal, Walkup said he still thinks it is a great location for a smaller grocery store. He said he hopes rebidding the project will help it materialize quicker.

"My guess is that (the requests for proposals) would generate new interest," he said. "Maybe we go back to square one."
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Old Posted Nov 25, 2005, 9:57 AM
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combusean combusean is online now
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You want a sure bet for sorely needed downtown grocers for Tucson, Phoenix, and maybe Tempe and Mesa?

Walmart's Neighborhood Market concept, which is floundering in the suburbs to established competitors like Safeway and Fry's, could find an evil home in areas like this that are waiting for that so called "critical mass." They are the only company capable of running a grocery store in the red for however long it takes, cutting prices enough until they dominate the area.

The low price thing would attract the established, low income residents. Sheer convenience attracts the higher end condo junkies.

Just don't tell them this.

Last edited by combusean; Nov 25, 2005 at 9:41 PM.
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Old Posted Nov 25, 2005, 8:31 PM
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^I've toyed with another option for emerging downtowns with a growing base of sophisticated, urban residents: cities should offer discounted or free rent for a few years to land a new Trader Joe's. It wouldn't be that expensive as their stores are fairly small, and I'd bet the payoff would be substantial.

(Hmmm....I wonder if this is what the Centerpoint project has in mind?)
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Old Posted Dec 1, 2005, 11:39 AM
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A new walking trail will highlight some of downtown Tucson's most historic sites and structures:

A walk along the turquoise path
Historical sites, famous stories are spotlighted

By Rob O'Dell

Downtown Tucson is brimming with historical sites and famous stories. Soon it will have a walking trail to show much of it off.

Beginning in mid-December, Downtown will have a walking trail modeled after Boston's famous Freedom Trail to guide residents and visitors around 23 of the city's most significant historical landmarks.

The 23 sites are located in a loop around Downtown, from the Presidio Wall south to Carrillo Elementary School, then northeast to the Hotel Congress and northwest to finish at the Telles Block, which is now Old Town Artisans.

Each site will be marked along the trail, and sites that don't currently have plaques will soon get them.

The sites will be connected by a turquoise-colored line that is being painted on the sidewalk for most of the length of the trail, said Gayle Hartmann, president of the Presidio Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the two women largely responsible for making the trail a reality.

"We are copying the Freedom Trail," Hartmann said, of the trail that connects 16 historic sites between Boston Common and the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown by a red line painted on the sidewalk. "We aren't pretending that we are original."

Hartmann said the purpose of the trail is to encourage more use of Downtown, increase patronage of the businesses in the city's center, show off Tucson's rich history and simply provide the opportunity for a nice walk. The entire walk takes about two hours, she said.

While the stops on Tucson's new trail aren't as historic as Boston's, it has its own Tucson charm, said Marjorie Cunningham, a Tucson lawyer who was also instrumental setting up the walking tour.

She rattled off some of Tucson's unique history, including John Dillinger's capture at the Hotel Congress, Wyatt Earp shooting his brother's killer along the railroad tracks and the story of El Tiradito, the wishing shrine.

"It's not as (historically) significant as Boston's, but we have better weather," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said a brochure marking the trail's path and explaining its 23 sites and their significance will be ready by Dec. 15 at the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, 100 S. Church Ave., and also at hotels and restaurants.

"It seems to me that it is something that should have been done a long time ago, so people can understand what they're look
ing at," Hartmann said.

1. Presidio San Agustin de Tucson 2. Pima County Courthouse 3. Mormon Battalion sculpture 4. Soldado de Cuera ( Presidio Soldier) sculpture 5. Allande footbridge 6. Garcés footbridge 7. Gazebo in Plaza de Mesilla (La Placita) 8. Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House 9. Jacome Art Panel at Tucson Convention Center 10. El Tiradito, also known as the Wishing Shrine 11. La Pilita 12. Carrillo Elementary School 13. Teatro Carmen 14. Ferrin House, now Cushing Street Bar and Restaurant 15. Barrio Viejo streetscape 16. Temple of Music and Art 17. Armory Park 18. International Order of Odd Fellows Hall 19. Hotel Congress 20. Union Pacific Railroad Depot 21. Fox Theatre 22. Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block 23. Telles Block (now Old Town Artisans)

2. Pima County Courthouse dome

16. Temple of Music and Art

19. Hotel Congress

21. Fox Theatre (grand reopening: Dec. 31)
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Old Posted Dec 1, 2005, 12:58 PM
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Gotta love Hotel Congress, and it's Cup Cafe.
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Old Posted Dec 1, 2005, 5:46 PM
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Originally Posted by kaneui

One more reason why Tucson gets it better than Phoenix.
The Phoenix Fox Theater was our great movie palace, an art deco treasure. We tore it down in 1975 for a bus transit center, which is now just a parking lot.

Yesterday's glory, today's parking lot:

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Old Posted Dec 2, 2005, 8:09 PM
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Even a former courthouse annex and an old convent are being converted as Tucson finally embraces loft living:

Downtown a budding housing hot spot
'People are tired of driving,' one area developer says

Tucson Citizen
December 1, 2005

Converting a vacant courthouse annex into high-end loft-style condominiums may seem unusual for downtown Tucson, but the market for upscale urban housing is taking hold.

Projects large and small and in varying states of completion are dotting the map of downtown.

On Congress Street just west of Interstate 10, the first houses of the new Mercado District of Menlo Park - nearly 300 homes and retail shops - will be going up in a few months.

The old YMCA building at Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street is scheduled to be razed to make way for a loft-style development.

The Arizona Ice and Cold Storage building was converted into 51 lofts, and all the units were sold as of last month.

The former convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph's Academy are also being turned into luxury lofts.

Randy Emerson, director of development for Rio Nuevo, said two other mixed-use projects are making progress but are in the early stages.

Presidio Terrace, a townhouse and apartment development just north of the Tucson Museum of Art, has received plan approval from the city and must now finish up design and permitting before construction can begin.

The Post on Congress, to be built on the site of the former Thrifty Drug store, is being designed and has not submitted plans to the city for review.

Emerson said developers of the ex-drug store site are in negotiations to buy the parking lot behind the Chase Bank building.

James LeBeau, a partner in 44 Broadway LLC, which is converting a former courthouse annex, said his group's project will likely be the first completed in the heart of downtown.

He said as more people move downtown, restaurants and retail operations will follow.

Projects that include ground-floor retail such as The Post on Congress, which will be across from the courthouse annex LeBeau and his partners are converting, will help make downtown more pedestrian oriented, he said.

"Who wants to walk by this now? But when it's done, people will be coming here," LeBeau said, gesturing at the vacant lot across the street.

Jayson Meyerovitz, another partner in the firm, said Tucson is starting to see a trend that other cities have seen for years.

"Urban living is hot everywhere," he said. "People are tired of driving."

former Immaculate Heart Convent and St. Joseph's Academy slated for 36 loft apartments (Academy Lofts):

rendering - 20-unit condo loft conversion of former courthouse annex at 44 E. Broadway:
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Old Posted Dec 7, 2005, 9:21 PM
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Instead of just widening I-10 through downtown, Tucson and Pima County want ADOT to study putting it below ground level and underground, which would eliminate the bisecting of Rio Nuevo and give added real estate to the project:

I-10 tunnel Downtown proposed
Plan likely to delay widening bids, could add $100M to cost of project

By Rob O'Dell and Tim Ellis

The city and county asked the state Tuesday to delay widening Interstate 10 through Tucson to give time to study putting the highway below ground level through downtown — which could add at least $100 million to the project.

Bids for widening the freeway, now estimated to cost $191 million, were scheduled to go out in December. But with the help of Gov. Janet Napolitano, the bid solicitation probably now won't go out until at least spring, or later.

That will give the city and county a chance to study how much it would cost and how long it would take to put the freeway below ground level through Downtown from roughly St. Mary's Road to 22nd Street, a part of which would be a tunnel.

A 2002 study indicated simply depressing that stretch of freeway, without making it a tunnel, could double the cost. That, coupled with the phenomenal inflation in road construction costs in over the past year, point to a cost increase in the $100 million range, although most officials said it's impossible to predict for sure until further studies are done.

Transportation activist and one-time Democratic City Council candidate Steve Farley confirmed $100 million is the figure he has heard from city officials with whom he discussed the project. Others privately acknowledged that amount has been discussed.

The possible redesign also clouds the future of the huge arch and suspension bridge planned as part of the University of Arizona's new Downtown science center, that was expected span the freeway, linking Rio Nuevo development west of the Santa Cruz River to Downtown.

City Councilman Jose Ibarra said the bridge "probably would not exist anymore" if the highway was lowered. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said that the depressed freeway may make the bridge "unnecessary." That's news to Alexis Faust, executive director of the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center, who said, "I don't see it how it affects us at all." She said the science center still needs to be connected over the Santa Cruz River, and if the highway was eliminated, the pedestrian bridge could have great views of parks and the buildings that are put in the highway's place.

The request to the state was laid out Tuesday in a memo signed by Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Ibarra, and Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias. While the tunnel idea has been discussed before, Tucson City Manager Mike Hein said the city has a window of opportunity with the Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment project and the widening of I-10 happening in concert. "I don't want to be in the position where in 10 years people look back and ask why didn't we look at this one more time," he said.

Jan Lesher, the head of the governor's Southern Arizona office, said that the governor, a Democrat who is up for re-election in 2006, asked that the project be delayed so a tunnel could be looked at. Dennis Alvarez, Tucson District Engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation, said the bids will not go out until the study is done.

Lesher said the governor's office wants a study done quickly "to find out if this is even remotely possible." "We only get one bite at this apple," so it is critical that the right decision is made, Lesher said. Andrew Greenhill, Walkup's chief of staff, said Napolitano's support is very important, and said the governor has always been supportive of projects in Southern Arizona, one of the only strongly Democratic areas in the state.

Widening the freeway to eight lanes from West Prince Road to 29th Street was expected to start next year, and be done on an accelerated three-year schedule to minimize disruption, at the city's request.

Bob Brittain, vice president of HDR, the consulting firm that did the 2002 study, said the city called the firm recently and asked if it could do a feasibility study as inexpensively and quickly as possible. He said the firm hasn't been officially selected, and estimated a study will take "maybe two or three months." Under the concept described by Brittain, I-10 would go over St. Mary's, then just south of St. Mary's it would begin to cut into the ground. It would pass under Congress, under Clark Street, under Simpson Street and then it would rise above ground level and pass over 22nd Street.

An 800-foot section of the lowered roadway would be a tunnel, according to Brittain, from just south of Congress Street roughly to Mission Lane. Brittain said the city wanted as long a tunnel as possible, but said there is a long depressed section that doesn't have a top, "so you can still have the interchange at Congress."

Greg Shelko, director of the city's Rio Nuevo redevelopment project, said putting the highway underground would add real estate downtown and eliminate the barrier between the east and west sides of the city center. He likened the highway to "the Continental Divide."

Many officials, including Ibarra and Elias, who represent the area for the city and county, said connecting the West Side to Downtown was one of the key reasons to study a tunnel and a lowered freeway. "The West Side residents point to I-10 and say 'that's what cut us off from the rest of the city.' " Ibarra said. "This provides an opportunity to re-establish the synergy between the West Side and Downtown that existed before I-10 was built."

Lillian Lopez-Grant, who lives a few blocks west of I-10, said the West Side neighborhoods are very supportive. "That's what we wanted all along," said Grant, the president of the West Side Coalition, a group of five neighborhoods.

Maurice Destouet, senior vice president of the Riverpark Inn at I-10 and Clark Street, said he hadn't heard of the plan but likes it. "Anything that will require ADOT to rethink the effect of this freeway expansion, and particularly the closure of the Clark Street tunnel, and the noise problem, is good," he said.
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Old Posted Dec 7, 2005, 10:54 PM
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I hope they do it. I like the Rio Nuevo bridge idea, but if I were forced to choose, I'd opt for the freeway tunnel.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 12:21 AM
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^ Of course, $100 million could also build a 35 story skyscraper in downtown Tucson, or put $3000 to $4000 in the pocket of every poor family that lives in Tucson, providing a boost to the economy, so I guess it's all about how much money state bureaucracies can blow.

Deck Park Tunnel in Phoenix is nice, but no one can claim it really made that much of a difference in the urban fabric of Phoenix. The money likely could be better spent elsewhere.

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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 12:56 AM
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^And how many billions does the state continue to spend on more freeways in metro Phoenix that only encourage more sprawl?

I think this project could make a significant difference in the future success of downtown Tucson by not only providing additional contiguous land for Rio Nuevo's various projects, but also rejoining some severed parts of a fairly small downtown area. When initially built, I-10 literally sliced off the west side of downtown Tucson, by both obliterating and alienating neighborhoods that were previously connected to the downtown core.

On the other hand, I-10 in Phoenix is north of its downtown, and the underground tunnel there did nothing more than bulldoze parts of the historic Roosevelt district to create a platform for Deck Park, which for its expense, is hugely underdeveloped and underutilized.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 2:24 AM
Don B. Don B. is offline
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There are plenty of vacant lots in downtown Tucson. Perhaps those should be filled up before we spend a lot of money to bury a freeway that's already there.

Since you mentioned Phoenix, it's actually Maricopa County taxpayers that are footing the bill for most freeway development in the Phoenix area. As I recall, Tucson taxpayers haven't seen fit to do likewise.

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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 3:53 AM
soleri soleri is offline
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The historic houses (and they WERE glorious) that sat in the path of I-10 in Phoenix were cleared in 1964, about 25 years before the actual penetration of the freeway into downtown. Deck Park is underutilized but it's still wonderful to have an amenity of that kind if only because it serves to knit together the fragments of Phoenix's urban tissue. Yes, it was very expensive, but the federal govenment paid for most it, about a week's worth of expenditures for the FUBAR in Iraq.

The only complaint I would have about Tucson's project is that it apparently is much smaller than Deck Park, which is a half mile in length. By contrast, Tucson's is only 800 feet and would feel more like a lily pad than a pond.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 6:57 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Originally Posted by Don B.

Since you mentioned Phoenix, it's actually Maricopa County taxpayers that are footing the bill for most freeway development in the Phoenix area. As I recall, Tucson taxpayers haven't seen fit to do likewise.

Although new freeways in metro Phoenix are funded by the additional county sales tax, once they are completed, the cost of ongoing maintenance and improvements becomes the responsibility of ADOT, which for Maricopa County was projected at $2.2B for the five years between 2002-2007. http://www.mag.maricopa.gov/archive/...1%20update.pdf

Since metro Tucson has far fewer freeway miles per capita, those residents are in fact paying a disproportionate share to maintain Phoenix's freeways. And regarding this project, with I-10 being an interstate, a significant percentage of any improvements will be federally funded.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2005, 12:54 PM
Don B. Don B. is offline
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^ There's no way "maintenance" in the Phoenix area (with no freezing and thawing, repaving going on, etc.) would cost that much over five years.

I don't have time to wade through a 100-page+ document to figure it out for sure, but I suspect some of that cost is for reconstruction or rubberized-asphalt paving.

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Old Posted Dec 28, 2005, 6:26 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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With the projected cost of the proposed downtown bridge/science center now $350M and only $100M raised thus far, some Tucsonans are already resisting the project, although a new study claims it could bring big economic dividends:

'Rainbow bridge' may be pot of gold
Study: Costly science center structure would add $305M yearly to economy

By Thomas Stauffer

An extra $100 million spent on a landmark science center structure Downtown would return several times that amount in economic benefits, according to a study released Tuesday.

The "rainbow bridge" designed by architect Rafael Viñoly to house the science center would create about 5,000 new permanent jobs and bring in about $362 million annually in economic activity, the study says. Viñoly's bridge would reach a height of 367 feet, span Interstate 10 and the Santa Cruz River, and support most of the science center's buildings along its 1,200-foot curved expanse.
The rainbow bridge is now projected to cost about $350 million to build, compared to about $250 million for a similar science center built on a lesser bridge. For a cost increase of about one third, the economic impacts are several times that, said Rob Vugteveen, director of marketing and outreach for the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center.

The study by Cambridge, Mass.-based ConsultEcon Inc. projected that the extra $100 million for a landmark structure would bring in $305 million more in new spending every year and create 4,206 more jobs than a bridge that is not such a destination.

More than 80 percent of the projected economic impact of the proposed bridge is attributable to its architectural grandeur, said Alexis Faust, executive director of the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center. That's because of the larger number of out-of-state visitors such a landmark would attract, she said.
The UA has raised about $100 million of the $350 million price tag for Viñoly's suspension-bridge science center — a price tag that accounts for surging construction costs, said Robert Smith, director of Facilities Design & Construction at the UA.

To bridge the $250 million gap, UA officials will take results of the current study and images of the project to the public to build consensus and continue seeking funding, Faust said.
Officials from the UA and the city of Tucson have said one potential source of funding would be an extension to the 10-year tax increment financing period that allows the Rio Nuevo Downtown revitalization project to use a portion of state sales tax on public projects Downtown.

"The bottom line is we need to stay as open to pursuing as many different sources of funding as we can, public and private," she said. "The TIF (tax increment financing) extension money would obviously be a source we would look at, but that funding is not going to make or break the project."

Projections of the current take of sales tax generated from the financing — currently set to expire in 2013 — is $124 million, which the city must match from its general fund dollar-for-dollar in public funding for the project. The city spending can include infrastructure improvements and other public uses such as parking garages.
Extending the tax increment financing period for another 10 to 15 years could raise another $186 million, bringing the total state-sales-tax take to about $400 million.

While that amount of money could fund the Viñoly-designed science center, city officials have more recently announced plans to seek a tax increment financing extension not for the science center but to lower a stretch of Interstate 10 underground in the Downtown area, a project estimated to cost more than $400 million.

Lowered freeway won't hurt
Faust said efforts to extend funding for Rio Nuevo to bury the freeway don't adversely affect the rainbow bridge plan. An underground freeway would actually benefit the landmark bridge, reducing noise levels and visual congestion, Faust said.
The science center is "definitely part of the menu of projects" that could benefit from an extension of tax increment financing, said C. Mary Okoye, director of intergovernmental relations for the city.

A West Side resident who has attended scores of meetings and workshops on the proposed science center said she doesn't care how much money the study claims Viñoly's bridge will bring — she's dead set against it.

"I'm in full support of the science center, but look, we were never in favor of that damn bridge in the first place, and it's just a big waste of money and time," said Lillian Lopez Grant, the president of the Menlo Park Neighborhood Association. "I think they could do a lot of different things if they wanted to, instead of just hiring this loony-toon architect who designed a monument to himself. They're out of their minds."

Last edited by kaneui; Dec 28, 2005 at 7:02 AM.
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Old Posted Dec 28, 2005, 6:41 AM
kaneui kaneui is offline
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Tucson is lobbying the state legislature to extend funding for Rio Nuevo--its downtown redevelopment project--by 20 or 30 years beyond 2012:

Rio Nuevo life span on way to extension

By Rob O'Dell
Arizona Daily Star

The life of the Rio Nuevo district seems to be a train that already has left the station.

Despite the fact that the Tucson City Council has never had a public discussion on extending the Downtown development district, all of the council members said they were on board to extend its life past the original 10 years. In addition, state Rep. Steve Huffman, a Tucson Republican, has begun drafting a bill in the House of Representatives to try to make it happen. "I think the council is ready to extend" the Rio Nuevo district, said Ward 4 Democrat Shirley Scott. "My sense is the council is headed in that direction."

The city also has moved up the timetable for finishing a feasibility study on constructing an underground section of Interstate 10 through Downtown, moving the deadline from March or April to the end of January. Earlier this month, the city and county asked the state to delay work on widening I-10 to provide time to study putting the freeway below ground level roughly from St. Mary's Road to 22nd Street, a part of which would be a tunnel. The shortened study period was partly brought about by the Legislature's calendar, City Manager Mike Hein said.

Receiving the report in January will ensure that the city knows the cost and practicality of a depressed freeway so it can take a vote on whether to ask the Legislature for an extension of the Rio Nuevo district, Hein said.

If the feasibility study came back in March or April, the city would have little or no time to lobby the Legislature for an extension, because the state lawmakers' session runs only until spring. Hein said a formal council vote to endorse an extension could coincide with the late-January completion of the I-10 study.

Michael Johnson, senior engineer at HDR, the company conducting the study, said he'll try to come up with a rough cost estimate, and an overview of what it would require — such as possible environmental impact studies — and a rough schedule for how long it would take to complete the project.

"We can't do a very detailed study in 30 days, obviously," he said. Huffman said he has opened a file on extending Rio Nuevo — the precursor to a bill — and is drafting its language so he can introduce it after the Legislature convenes in early January.

He said he is meeting with legislators to try to gain their support. The initial response has been positive, he said, and he expects the bill will pass this session.

Barrett Marson, a spokesman for the House Republican majority and for Speaker of the House Jim Weiers of Phoenix, said that although the speaker met with Tucson officials, including Hein, in Phoenix two weeks ago, Weiers didn't have much to say about the extension. He referred calls to Huffman, who he said is responsible for generating support to get the bill passed.

Tucson wants a 20- to 30-year extension, because 30 to 50 years is the typical life span of a district such as Rio Nuevo, said Mary Okoye, the city's lobbyist. A special law sets aside a portion of state taxes for a mix of museums, historic restorations and other cultural and commercial projects, but it requires the city to put an equal amount of its own money into the redevelopment, either in money or public projects.

The law is now expected to feed $124 million into Rio Nuevo by the time it expires in 2012. A 20-year extension would add $580 million that the city would have to match, while a 30-year extension would add $1.01 billion that the city would need to match, said city Finance Director Scott Douthitt.

The Rio Nuevo extension is being discussed now because of the proposals for an underground I-10 and for the massive suspension bridge that the University of Arizona wants to build, said Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, a Democrat from Ward 3. The $350 million bridge would be part of the UA's new Downtown science center. Another possible project that has come up in conversations with city officials is a new Downtown arena.

Getting state legislative approval to extend the diversion of taxes to Rio Nuevo could be a hard sell because it means more money for Tucson at the expense of cities in Maricopa County, whose lawmakers make up about 60 percent of the Legislature.

Huffman said the incentive for the approval by the Legislature was that an extension of Rio Nuevo would build the economic base of Downtown Tucson and would give the state more revenue in the long term.

He said voters wouldn't have to approve an extension because the electorate only authorized the creation of the district, and it was the Legislature that approved its 10-year life span.
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