Controversy over proposed hi-rise housing complex on 4th Avenue

Updated: Feb. 19, 2018 at 7:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A proposal to build a 7-story housing complex at 4th and 6th along Fourth Avenue has created a concern and controversy as to whether it will change the iconic nature of the Tucson tourist attraction.

The merchants have carved out a niche style and eclectic nature to its stores and wares.

Razorz Edge, an alternative fashion store which has been on the strip for a decade, is one of those.

"We have goth style, pinup style, the alternative stuff, some of the new hipper things young people like," said Zandre Minerva, who has worked at the store for seven years. "But we cater to all ages."

A seven story building down the street from their modest store, would certainly conflict, she believes, with the nature of Fourth Avenue.

"There's a lot of attitude, the feel, you can feel the culture and how everyone vibes down here," she said.

Other stores have their concerns as well.

Popcycle, a gift store which specializes in one of a kind, hand made items, has become a tourist favorite along 4th Avenue.

The owners say there is nothing wrong with improvements but the character of the neighborhood should be maintained.

"Gentrification is troubling," said Shannon Riggs, one of Popcycle's owners. "We want improvements to the area and we want liveability and walkability but you have to keep the flavor and vibe alive at the same time."

Dr. Tank Ojha, who owns the Everest Souvenirs, says if the new development is approved, it could drive him out of business.

"My rents have gone up so much, I can't keep up," he said of the 30 percent rent increases he's faced since the streetcar was built. "I may have to close and sell all my merchandise.

He says most of his merchandise comes from places like Nepal and India so shipping is already very expensive.

Of the proposed development he said "it may be good if it brings more customers but college students don't buy my stuff."

The 250-unit apartment complex is being proposed by a Memphis company, EdR, which has built student housing in Tucson before.

Although there is some skepticism whether the new, proposed development meets the criteria.

A group called Save 4th Avenue, has sprung up to fight the proposal although it's little more than a Facebook site for the time being.

"I don't want to see a part of Tucson's past destroyed," said Urban Scurry, who has organized the protest. "I've never done anything like this before."

He hopes to pack a city council meeting later this week, even though the item is not on the agenda. He has 64 people so far who say they're going to attend and will address the council through the call to the audience.

"There's only a few places like this left in our entire country," he said. "Somebody's got to stand up and say, enough is enough."

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