Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Old facades could give downtown Tucson a new face

[Source: Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen] -- Restoring a 1912 look to downtown Tucson may be the ideal way to celebrate the state's centennial in 2012 and to establish a "new" identity for the future. There are already nibbles to reawaken the downtown history that is still firmly in place - but mostly covered up, neglected or downright forgotten. With all the talk about an arena, museums and rainbow bridges, 90 percent of downtown revitalization could already be in place: the buildings on and near Congress Street and Broadway. Nearly all date from the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s - not that you'd necessarily know that with the awful mid-century facades that cover many of them. Check out the Hittinger Building (pictured), 120 E. Congress St., next to the Chicago Store.

This building had a drab 1940s look until owner Warren Michaels (pictured) in 2002 had architect Rob Paulus restore the 1901 neoclassical facade. Michaels is selling the building to Melanie Morrison, who will occupy it with 30 employees and her Morrison Ekre Bart Management Services, one of Tucson's top two apartment management firms. Michaels and Morrison unwittingly are providing the example of how downtown might be revitalized: spruce up a gorgeous building and fill it with people. Take a walk with Jonathan Mabry, Tucson's historic preservation officer, and he will tell you he wants to have more buildings restored to their early 20th century looks and occupied by businesses that attract visitors: boutique hotels, restaurants, retail shops. Sit down and chat with assistant city manager Karen Masbruch and Glenn Lyons, chief executive of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, and you will see they are about to unveil a facade program to add on to what Michaels, Morrison and Mabry are already doing.

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