[Source: Tom Beal, Daily Star] -- When the first residents of the Mercado District at Menlo Park move in next month, the city can honestly claim that its Rio Nuevo project has added to the population Downtown — or at least quite near Downtown. Justin Dixon and his partner, Dale Thompson, expect to be living in their Sonoran row home in time to celebrate Dixon's 39th birthday July 4 by watching the fireworks on nearby "A" Mountain from their patio. Dixon is managing member of Rio Development, which planned these 100 homes being laid out around seven plazas. He and Thompson will become the first residents lured by city expenditure of state sales tax money set aside for redevelopment in the Rio Nuevo district. Their home, built by Paolo Delorenzo of Innovative Living Design and Development, is sleekly modern inside but part of a zero-setback streetscape that resembles Old Mexico or Downtown Tucson's Barrio Viejo.
Another six homes will be populated by the end of the year at this site, south of West Congress Street and west of the Santa Cruz River and Interstate 10. The Mercado District sits at the western edge of a planned modern streetcar route that will extend through Downtown, up Fourth Avenue and through the University of Arizona to the campus of University Medical Center. Development will occur along that line, says City Manager Mike Hein. "Too many things are converging — the modern streetcar, the cost of gas and strong developer interest in building Downtown — for it not be an inevitable occurrence," Hein said. Hein said he initially underestimated the psychological impact of reaching a million in population but was convinced by the level of interest in building a convention hotel Downtown that the milestone is making outside investors take Tucson more seriously. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]