Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tucson post-World War II subdivisions could qualify for preservation list

[Source: B. Poole, Tucson Citizen] -- A recent tally of local neighborhoods confirms what southern Arizonans have been shouting from the rooftops for decades: Tucson is not another Phoenix. Though both cities sprouted sizable stretches of tract housing in the decades after World War II, the way Tucson grew and the homes built here - about 66,000 from 1945-73 - are very different from our larger neighbor to the north, according to a study commissioned by the city. The Old Pueblo grew in smaller chunks than the Valley, and our mountain views and local brickworks sparked a distinct style of home - the Tucson ranch. The inventory of 304 neighborhoods built from 1945-73 is on the first cut of post-World War II subdivisions that could qualify for the National Register of Historic Places, said Marty McCune, city historic preservation officer. The list was culled from just more than 800 neighborhoods started during the study period. "There are just so many of these neighborhoods that we have to have a way of weeding out the ones that clearly are not going to be eligible," she said. The study lays the groundwork for comparing Tucson neighborhoods - a key to deciding which to nominate as historic districts, which would likely increase property values and could net homeowners a 50 percent property tax break if they agree to limit remodeling.

Echo of baby boom

Tucson's post-World War II housing explosion matched the nation's. Veterans needed homes for the baby boom, which was springing up so fast that traditional, one-at-a-time construction couldn't keep pace, said preservation specialist R. Brooks Jeffery, associate dean of the University of Arizona College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. "Like the rest of the nation, we had a pent-up demand," he said. The answer was production building, in which neighborhoods could be built assembly-line style, Jeffery said. But Tucson had smaller lenders than Phoenix, and many developers here were small-time operators - often married couples developing just a few acres - which helped make Tucson's production scale smaller than the Valley's in the post-war years, the study shows. A similar report shows Scottsdale's 103 post-war neighborhoods averaged 146 homes each while here the average was 83 homes. Tucson's water situation also forced smaller neighborhoods. Phoenix's valleywide water system allowed broad-ranging developments with thousands of homes and dozens of plats, or chunks local governments approved one by one. Tucson had no valleywide water system, said Deborah Edge Abele, president of Akros, the Tempe consulting firm that got $57,000 to do the study.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Tucson Citizen.]