Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tucson developer lauded for downtown work

[Source: Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen] -- Downtown housing developer Michael Keith marches to his own tune. He doesn't seek publicity and he's not one of the downtown builders with multistory projects. But Keith's devotion to historic details when he builds or fixes up houses downtown drew Mayor Bob Walkup's attention. Walkup on Thursday will give Keith the "Heart of Downtown" award at 10 a.m. at Keith's Franklin Court project, on the northeast corner of Franklin Street and Court Avenue. "Michael has been an active participant in downtown redevelopment efforts for many years," Walkup said in a statement. "He has volunteered countless hours to restoring downtown historic architecture and helping secure affordable housing for many of our residents."

Keith doesn't build large, flashy loft projects. He builds homes that fit in with downtown architecture. Since 1985, he has renovated about 30 abandoned historic houses in downtown neighborhoods, mostly Barrio Viejo, and he lives in one of his rescue projects. "Everything I've done has been very detailed, historically compatible, using original materials like adobe and wood floors," said Keith, president of Contemporary West Development. He has also done 13 new houses downtown, including seven in Franklin Court. Most of his projects, old and new, include enclosed courtyards. "I believe downtown has come a long way in the past 10 years, much more than we're giving it credit for," said Keith, a native Tucsonan. "I believe Tucson is the next Western city that is going to have a vibrant downtown." [Photo by Jerry Peek.]