Second Saturday, downtown Tucson merchants to honor Donovan Durband

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 10:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -Many downtown Tucson business owners will honor the memory of 58-year-old Donovan Durband on Downtown Second Saturday this weekend.

Durband, who died last Saturday, was instrumental in creating and reviving the Second Saturday concept following the pandemic.

But it was also the years he dedicated to making downtown thrive.

“Even when others had given up on downtown revitalization, Donovan passionately kept at it,” said Ward 6 council member Steve Kozachik, who hired Donovan in 2009 “because of his caring and passion for downtown.”

This is why downtown Tucson is buzzing these days, why more than a billion dollars has been invested in downtown and why Tucsonans will be celebrating Second Saturday this weekend.

“I think we felt like people were anxious to have it back,” Durband told us in 2022. “People were anxious to get out again and have fun, come downtown, hear live music, eat some food, enjoy the beautiful weather. All those good things that you can do in Tucson.”

Durband spent his career downtown advocating for business as founder of the Tucson Downtown Alliance nearly 25 years ago. It’s one reason the business community is organized and thriving.

Durband’s name will appear on the name on the marquee at the Fox Theater, The Screening Room and the Rialto Theater this weekend as a way to thank him and make the community aware of his contributions. “He would pay the same attention to a corner, you know, a neighborhood bar or coffee shop as he would a huge developer in finding solutions or connecting you to the right folks,” said Jill Brammer, a managing partner in Che’s Lounge on 4th Avenue. “Because he knew everyone.”

Durband was tapped to manage Park Tucson in 2012 when the parking utility was mired in controversy. Under his guidance, the complaints about not having enough parking downtown ended.

He understood the process because he lived it decades ago.

“I was in the same boat. I was one of those college students at the U of A who looked for parking in the neighborhoods,” he told us in 2017. “So I get it.”

A dedicated organizer, he was instrumental in so much of the success downtown without a need to revel in the adulation.

“You know, the Fox, the Rialto, the streetcar, a lot of those things had a lot of high profile people involved,” said Herb Stratford, who restored the Fox Theater. “And ah, then there’s the stuff that happened behind the scenes and Don was a big part of that.”

He was reluctant to do interviews or be recognized for his work to make downtown a success, preferring to set the table for others.

“Back in 2008, 2009, you wouldn’t walk downtown, it was unsafe, it was dirty, there was no activity,” Kozachik said. “It’s a completely different situation right now and much of that is because of Donovan’s advocacy when a lot of us had given up on downtown.”

The Scott Street music venue will be named in his honor during Second Saturday this weekend.

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