"Our dream is to have a place for girls," says Debbie Rich, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona.
The Girl Scouts have taken the first step in making that dream a reality by purchasing the property that once housed the 5 & Diner restaurant at 4330 E. Broadway to make way for a future resource center.
Demolition of the run-down diner began Tuesday morning, with a ceremony that allowed group participation from Girl Scout troop members and adults.
Sydney Bernal-Herrera, an 11-year-old Girl Scout, said they got to "go in the big pile that the construction workers took down." And some of the girls got to knock down a couple of bricks.
"It's a couple-week process," Rich said.
Rich said the first reason the Girl Scouts purchased the former diner is "it was a true blight in the neighborhood, and it had been like that for at least two years."
The Girl Scouts were able to negotiate a deal on the property for $500,000, which is less than half of its listed price.
"It was a really good investment," Rich said. "Land is a sound investment for any organization, so that's how our board looked at it."
The proposed 20,000-square-foot resource center would provide five troop rooms, an art studio, a rock-climbing wall, a garden, a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program area and a supply shop.
"We want to have a place in the center of town for girls to explore and try new things," Rich said.
"Right now we're going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot," however, she quipped. Once demolition of the diner is complete, the property will be paved and used for parking, until the organization's development plan is approved through the city of Tucson.
Rich said she is confident the city will approve the organization's development plan, and once that happens, the Scouts will seek community support to help with the building fund.
The Girl Scouts were able to buy the property with money earned from cookie sales and donated funds.
"Of course, we can't build the building with just cookie money," Rich said. "But it's going to be there to help."
Sydney Bernal-Herrera is excited about the prospect of the new building.
"When we have nothing else to do, we can go there with our imagination and do fun stuff," she said. "Like rock climbing and just hanging out with girls that are your age."
The Girl Scouts currently only have one troop room, which is where troop meetings are held.
They've had to rely on schools, churches and libraries for space to house the meetings of the 600 troops in Tucson.
But Rich said those spaces are becoming few and hard to come by in this economy.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to build our dream building for girls."
How to Help
Those interested in supporting the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona can make donations online at GirlScoutsSoAz.org or by calling Debbie Rich at 319-3168.
Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4137.