20-story development gets rezoning approval near UA

Published: Jun. 20, 2018 at 1:40 AM MST|Updated: Jun. 20, 2018 at 8:53 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson's city council has given the green light to a developer with plans to change the Speedway skyline.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved re-zoning plans for a big overhaul at Speedway Boulevard and Campbell Avenue, on the northeast corner of the University of Arizona campus. 

According to the council's agenda, the preliminary development plan proposes a mixed-use activity center with retail, grocery, hospitality, and potential for multifamily residential and professional or medical offices. 

The proposed main building would be 250 feet high, about 20 stories, with neighboring buildings of seven stories and six stories, the city council agenda explained.

It would replace the Palm Shadows apartments on the northwest corner of the intersection, which was built in the 1960s. It's a bittersweet feeling for those who live there, while the businesses and bars see the benefits.

It will mean changes to the hustle and bustle and one of Tucson's busiest intersections.

"This is our bread and butter for sure," said Roman Rodriguez, a manager and bartender at Dirtbag's, about the prime location. "It'll definitely bring a lot more business and a bigger demographic for this bar, as well."

The newcomers see potential, too. The vote at the Tucson city council meeting paves the way for the new development. The next step will come when developers file the demolition permits after the 30-day protest period is up.

But Rodriguez's joy gives way to Matthew Lusher's worry.

The Palm Shadows apartments have been Lusher's home for nearly four years.

"Especially for low-income people in this area, places like Palm Shadows are kind of running out," he told Tucson News Now.

But Lusher has also watched things change for the worse, especially recently, at his home. The complex is deteriorating, he says, with management reluctant to fix things as they see the writing on the wall.

"Because they know it's going to be torn down," Lusher said.

Despite his concern, he can appreciate the plans for a new grocery store in the first floor of the new development.

"Due to the site's location at the gateway of the University of Arizona within proximity to the Helen Street streetcar stop and other multi-modal opportunities, the site is highly underutilized," a city council memo in Tuesday's agenda explained.

Lusher sees it as a positive change for the commercial neighborhood.

"One thing that I hate about living here is that it's in what they're calling these days, 'Food Desert,'" he said, talking about the surplus of fast food options. "You have to go far to just get to a grocery store."

As of Tuesday afternoon, signs on the Palm Shadows building still called for potential new residents to apply.

But soon it will be out with the old and in with the new, leaving Lusher out, too.

"Whatever they're going to put here, I'm not going to be able to live here," he said, talking about the expected rise in rent. "I'm looking at having to move north of gr ant somewhere and having to take a bus. My doctor is just right behind here at Banner (University Medical Center) so I can just walk right up there. It's super, super convenient."

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