Downtown Tucson Partnership tracking unprecedented housing growth

Published: Aug. 31, 2016 at 8:39 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 1, 2016 at 12:08 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Downtown Tucson Partnership has released a map showing 21 housing projects its tracking in downtown Tucson.

The projects are in the planning, design or construction phase in 2016.

They are worth a combined $449.2 million and include 1,437 new homes.

Downtown Tucson is likely seeing the fastest and certainly biggest housing spurt ever.

"It's a 30-year overnight success," said Michael Keith, the outgoing CEO of the Partnership.

The city has been planning for its resurgence for decades but the pieces never fell into place until now, in part because of confidence in itself.

"We're in a whole new era in Downtown Tucson," Keith said. "The richness of the urban environment is getting so remarkable and one of a kind."

The resurgence has been heading in an upwards, straight line for the past eight years but most don't believe it will go on forever.

There will be bumps in the road, hiccups and slowdowns at some point but that does not seem to be on the near horizon.

"The full build out on all the available lots is $2.5 billion," he said. "We're only at a half a billion now so we have a lot more capacity."

It's unlikely there will be a full build out but another two dozen projects and potential projects are scheduled for 2017 and beyond.

"Once we fill up downtown, and I'm hoping it will happen, then we can start up 4th Avenue, down Sixth or up Stone," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

Tucson has an advantage downtown that many cities don't have and that's it's compact nature.

Because it's smaller than many big city downtowns, it becomes more walkable and bikeable which makes it "one of a kind for cities its size."

Tucson holds 80 events downtown every year that likely can't happen in bigger, more spread out downtowns, such as Phoenix.

"It's easy for us to put on a street fair or Second Saturday," Keith said. "Nine thousand people, we can do that."

And the compact nature makes it easier to connect neighborhoods, which have always been a cultural part of the city.

Armory Park, Barrio Viejo and Menlo Park all have the streetcar in common but also "all of this is connected by the pedestrian and bike scale that very few large cities have."

Whether this new era in downtown can sustain itself is yet to be seen but with big companies like Caterpillar and others looking to move here, it gives the town a better chance.

With 1,437 homes already planned in the next two years, and another 400 being discussed, the next phase may begin to take shape.

That phase will be retail to take care of the potential customers.

"I really think that will come," Keith said.

He's been waiting 30 years, a couple more doesn't seem that much.

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