City pushes back deadline for west-side project

2014-06-05T00:00:00Z City pushes back deadline for west-side projectBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A long-stalled project on downtown’s west side will get a little more time to pay the city for streetcar expenses.

The Tucson City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to grant the Gadsden Co. a fourth reprieve on deadlines to develop land just west of the Santa Cruz River.

The company, which holds exclusive rights to the 14 acres of city land, will now have until June 30 to pony up $2.3 million to the city and until Dec. 31 to meet some performance objectives.

The previous deadline was June 14.

Gadsden Co. owner Jerry Dixon said the company would make the payment by the end of the month.

While the company has yet to pull a permit for the 160-unit, $15 million-plus affordable housing development, Dixon expects to break ground this fall.

Other projects are in the works for the remaining acres, but Dixon said he couldn’t discuss those at this time.

Whatever those plans are, he hopes they could be carried out concurrently with the affordable housing project, which he estimates would take 14 months to build.

Gadsden’s deal with Tucson goes back to 2008, when the company agreed to buy and develop the land in phases.

The original plans called for apartments, a hotel and commercial buildings, but then the economy collapsed.

When the developer missed deadlines, the city granted an extension, and then allowed the developer to make changes to Phase 1 of the plan three years ago.

Phase 2 was scheduled to be completed in May 2013. But the council extended that deadline until June 14, 2014.

The company has so far paid $947,000 to the city as part of the original $3.3 million deal.

In addition to the new deadlines, Gadsden must take out a $608,000 bond. The company already has a $1 million bond on the project.

The city could collect on the bonds and take back the land if the company fails to meet future deadlines.

But Councilman Steve Kozachik is skeptical that would ever happen.

“We’ve already demonstrated we don’t stick to the deadlines. So if it’s June 30, August 5 or whenever, it doesn’t matter,” said Kozachik, who voted against the extension. “They don’t have any reason to believe we will stick to this deadline because we haven’t stuck to any in the past.”

Even though a protracted recession has stalled Gadsden’s plans, Councilwoman Regina Romero says the company’s project can still be a catalyst for west-side development.

“I want to see this project be successful. It’s taken many years to get to where we’re at, but once we start seeing development happening on the west side, we’ll see a lot more private investment come in,” she said. “We want to see that happen so we can see a successful streetcar running to the west side and see everything the neighbors wanted.”

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

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