Is Oracle Road the next big thing?

Updated: Mar. 1, 2018 at 8:21 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - How to redevelop Oracle Road north of Speedway to Miracle Mile may be used as a road map to develop other areas of town.

The Urban Land Institute, The Rose Center for Public Leadership, and the National League of Cities have published a comprehensive economic development approach to Oracle Road.

The Rose Center chose four cities to study land use and how to implement policy in those cities. Tucson, along with Richmond, Virginia; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Columbus, Ohio were chosen for the year long project.

The intensive report released by the center suggests best practices for development, land use and preservation in the area.

"It will be used as a blueprint,"said Albert Elias, an assistant city manager. "What we learn here is not necessarily a cookie cutter formula that will work in any neighborhood."

But as downtown continues its resurgence, spillover to adjoining neighborhoods becomes an issue.

It's best to get out ahead of it and start to plan for it.

"I think it's obvious the Oracle area has some great resources that we need to recognize," Elias said.

The area has already become popular with gem show dealers who have bought up many vacant or run down warehouses, refurbished them and made Tucson their permanent home.

Restaurants and housing have begun to appear, just the sorts of things which may speed along growth.

"Small business coming in, entrepreneurs coming in, and then you go west, which is freeway side land that is really primed for larger scale projects," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

He also cautioned the city is not targeting Oracle as the next significant area for redevelopment, but it could be one of several areas. Input will assist wherever the growth continues.

"We were lucky enough to have people from Atlanta, San Francisco, Salt Lake, Denver, Richmond, Columbus, San Diego come here to give us input," the Mayor said.

However, Tucson may be restricted in a sense because it has only one tax incremental finance (TIF) district that has been instrumental in financing and planning for growth downtown.

TIF districts are used by cities to promote growth but Tucson is limited by the state legislature.

"Atlanta has ten districts, we have one," the Mayor said.

Still, too much growth too fast without community cooperation and input can cause an issue called gentrification, which is a change in the neighborhoods and is frequently opposed, especially in long time, older areas.

It raises home prices, rents and the character of a neighborhood or business area, something Tucson would like to avoid.

"We don't want to subject them to any more stress because that's one of the root causes of gentrification," said Elias. "When people feel stressed economically, socially and financially."

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