Miracle Mile now on the National Register of Historic Places

Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 7:06 PM MST
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1947 Duke's Drive-In designed by Arthur Brown (Source: Maynard Parker)
1947 Duke's Drive-In designed by Arthur Brown (Source: Maynard Parker)
Tucson Inn (Source: Jude Ignacio and Geradine Vargas)
Tucson Inn (Source: Jude Ignacio and Geradine Vargas)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Following a six year effort by a group of Tucson historians and community leaders, Miracle Mile has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

There are now 39 historic districts in Tucson.

The designation will give financial incentives to developers in hopes they will repurpose the buildings and architecture rather than tear them down.

Before the Interstate bisected Tucson in the 1960's, Miracle Mile was the gateway into downtown Tucson.

It was lined with hotels, gas stations, restaurants and movie theaters in order to entice travelers to stop and spend a few dollars in town.

(Miracle Mile circa 1937 - The Miracle Mile Historic District)

"There are other parts of Tucson that have wonderful mid-century architecture," said Demion Clinco, who has worked for six years to get the historic designation. "But nowhere expresses American's fascination with automobiles and automobile culture as well as this corridor."

Many of the buildings will not be restored for their original purpose, because they are no longer needed.

The Monterey Court at 505 West Miracle Mile is a perfect example. Built in 1938, it was once a bustling hotel that greeted travelers on their way to downtown.

It was purchased by Greg Haver in 2011, who had just retired as a general contractor after 35 years.

"I bought the place without having a plan in mind," he said. "It was a fire sale, a bank fire sale."

After testing the structures which he found to be sound, he repurposed the hotel as a music venue and artisan studio.

"We can hold up to 300 people and some nights we're pushing that," Haver said.

Music acts play six nights a week, food and beverages are served and the artisans ply their wares.

"We took this old motor court, restored it, maintained it, kept the original structures, but gave it new life," he said. "So, we're happy."

However, the biggest risk to Haver's success and the success of others who are preserving Miracle Mile, was overcoming the bad reputation that the street had developed in the later parts of the 20th century.

It had become known as Tucson's red light district with strip clubs and crime.

Tucson politicians were so embarrassed by the name Miracle Mile, that city leaders voted to remove the signs and start referring to it as Oracle Road.

Some of those remnants remain but the reputation, not the name, has been scrubbed.

"For quite a few years, it was a struggle," Haver said. "The reputation was still sticking."

But he says after people coming, bringing their friends, the stigma has been overcome.

"Now people know who we are, it's safe," he said. "It's why they come."

For Clinco, it's an affirmation of what he thought Miracle Mile could become.

"That's the intent of these federal incentives is to take buildings that are underperforming or not performing at all and get them back on the tax rolls," he said.

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