Thursday, April 17, 2008

Planner: Modest, shorter projects work better in Tucson's downtown

[Source: Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen] -- Don't expect a Manhattan skyline with Glenn Lyons as the point man shaping downtown. Downtown Tucson shouldn't aim at being a high-rise center, but should develop more in keeping with its character and the character of the city, Lyons believes. He wants to fill downtown vacant lots and surface parking lots with a scattering of two- and three-story housing and office complexes. Lyons, chief executive of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, recently unveiled to the Tucson Citizen his vision of downtown redevelopment. The downtown partnership Lyons heads is jointly funded by the county, city and private sector. Instead of a few grandiose developments that, given Tucson's history, undoubtedly would founder in a sea of controversy and never be built, Lyons is concentrating on more modest private-sector projects downtown.

Those developments ultimately would mesh with the large public projects at Rio Nuevo already being planned. "It's not hard to figure out you can build on a lower scale," Lyons said. "Everything is more modest here, which leads to more modest development. "It's never going to be a high-rise office environment." A low-slung downtown residential sector would make Tucson unique among American cities and attractive to visitors seeking something distinctly different, said Lyons, who moved to Tucson in mid-February from Calgary, Alberta. And it would please the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the downtown core that routinely protest proposals that climb higher than two or three stories. "The El Presidio neighborhood was clapping," Lyons said, when he presented his vision a few weeks ago to the neighborhood north of City Hall. Double the downtown population of residents and office workers, and that should create enough critical mass to establish a solid beachhead for vibrant downtown retail, Lyons reasons. Lyons has built his vision in the year since first walking the Presidio Trail (pictured), the painted blue line that has snaked through downtown and fringes of the Barrio Viejo and El Presidio neighborhoods since September 2006.

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