City working on preserving former church, performing arts building

Effort to preserve performing arts building

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Center for the Performing Arts on South Sixth, was built as a church nearly 100 years ago, now it is owned by the city, and is struggling to find its place in the 21st century.

Circled by security fence and locked, over run with weeds, accumulating trash, the building has remained empty for the past twenty years.

"When I was in college we actually rehearsed in this space, for programs we were doing at the University of Arizona," said Andy Squire, with the City of Tucson.

But now, Squire has gone from college theater at the center, to part of a city team trying to save it.

"It was a fun place to be in, blocked it up and used this as a staging area," he said.

Preserving history has become more challenging as downtown experiences a renassaince and city budgets are short, but this is likely the most difficult and challenging preservation project of them all.

"There's no parking. And for commercial use its going to be challenging because there is limited parking or no parking," Squire pointed out. "It's historic in nature. It's part of the challenge. It was built at a time when everybody walked to their neighborhood church."

A million dollars has been spent to make it stable and millions more may be needed..

"There will be a little bit, I'm assuming water damage as it was coming in around the windowns, getting into the adobe block," said Squire.

Finding deep pockets to take on the project has been decades in the making, but now there is a glimmer of hope. The city has scheduled a closed door meeting next week to discuss proposals, or lack of them, it isn't known yet, only that it's in secret.

According to Squire the process can be competitive. "A business person wouldn't want to show their idea, because that's their idea. They want that to be proprietary."

Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, if need be, the search for a new owner or a new business, will go on.

"The building's not going anywhere," according to Squire. "It's never been an issue of tearing it down. This building stays. This building is part of the community."

The appraisal on the building is $740,000, but the true value... is priceless.

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