Historic Commission puts off decision on 4th Ave. high-rise project

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson-Pima Historical Commission put off for at least two weeks giving its approval or rejection to a new high-rise at Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street near the University of Arizona campus.

It will meet with the developers of the property again on July 26 to see if it can work out some concerns about the size of the structure, shade and other features.

The commission is attempting to make sure the development follows historic guidelines which are spelled out in city zoning codes.

The historical commission heard the a pitch from the developers who promised to preserve nearby historical structures, stressed it will use approved materials and assured the commission that standards would be met.

It meets the city infill requirements as laid out in Plan Tucson. It will also meet height restrictions by stair stepping the 254 unit complex, meaning it will be 2-stories at street level on Fourth but will rise to seven stories a few feet west of Fourth.

Matthew Stuart, speaking for the developers, EdR, a company which builds student housing, said the property would be a "true residential property not just for students."

Half the units will be studio apartments, with a mix of not only one and two bedrooms, but also two story apartments.

"It's really intended to take advantage of the modern streetcar," Stuart said.

They're also asking for fewer parking spaces than would normally be required. It's asking for 180 spaces instead of the normal one space per apartment.

The current building occupied by the Flycatcher Lounge will be demolished by the Sundt Corporation to make way for the new development.

The meeting did not address one of the biggest concerns some of the members have about the changing face of Fourth Avenue which is the changing social environment.

"I'm not sure who's watching out for that," said Helen Erickson, a commission member who says the building size and shape causes concern.

One of those looking out for that is Mike Peel, the chair of Local Tucson who is holding meetings with the developer and the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association to develop "community benefit agreements."

Under those agreements, smaller spaces are set aside for local businesses to lease because they are more affordable. Generally, the space is on the first floor and very prominent.

"We know that this is a unique hub that is unlike any other part of Tucson," said Peel. "It attracts tourists and locals alike and we want to make sure that remains the same."

It's not "no growth" or anti-growth he says.

"It's smart growth," Peel said. "What we're trying to do is strike a balance between new development and existing business on the avenue."

The Historic Commission asked the developers to come back in two weeks to answer more of their concerns.

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