At a public meeting last week, two developers unveiled proposals for the redevelopment of the Ronstadt Transit Center.
Ronstadt is the main hub for Sun Tran buses, with an average of more than 17,000 passengers each weekday.
City leaders have for years looked at possibilities for redeveloping the nearly 5-acre property. Disagreements over what a redeveloped Ronstadt would look like prevented anything from happening.
Now, that appears to be changing.
“Everybody gets what they need out of this development,” said Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.
Both of the proposals offered would preserve the transit functions of Ronstadt while building new office, retail, restaurant and residential spaces.
Transit users would still have a transportation hub in the heart of the city, developers get the chance to make money, the city would grab more sales and property taxes and the community at large would have new amenities.
“I welcome and applaud it,” said Kent Simpson, one of the real estate agents who runs Tierra Antigua Realty’s downtown office.
His office sits directly across Congress Street from Ronstadt.
Simpson said the prime location and proximity to transit points on the Sun Link streetcar line provide big advantages for the redevelopment of Ronstadt.
“I think it’s a perfect candidate for going vertical,” Simpson said.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik agrees.
“If you’re going to be bringing people in with mass transit, let’s give them some amenities,” Kozachik said.
It’s hard to find negatives, at least early in the process.
Even someone known for crying foul couldn’t find too many bad things to say about the plans.
“If it serves everybody, I guess you call that a win-win,” said Brian Flagg, longtime activist for the homeless and a force behind the Tucson Bus Riders Union.
Flagg said he has some minor concerns with design elements in one the proposals that would create a less free-flowing public entry for transit patrons, but he recognizes downtown Tucson has changed.
“It doesn’t matter what I think because it’s happening,” he said. “I guess it’s called progress.”
It is called progress, and the community shouldn’t stand in the way.
Keep in mind poverty persists in the region, with Tucson consistently ranking as one of the poorest parts of the country.
Workforce availability also remains a problem and the region is still recovering from the calamities of the 2008 recession.
With a lot of things working against the region, it makes sense to embrace thoughtful projects like this one appears to be.
“You can’t always say no if the truth is that turning down opportunities means things will fall into blight and decay,” said Tucson Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.
The days of downtown Tucson with boarded-up storefronts, dive bars and a dystopic “Escape from New York” vibe are gone.
It’s now attracting a younger generation that wants to live in urban settings like what downtown Tucson is becoming — a clean, walkable, bikeable area with amenities to serve them.
But embracing the new doesn’t mean downtown Tucson has to become a gaudy, neon-lit collection of Red Lobsters and Cracker Barrels.
“What Tucson needs is to be itself, but it needs to be itself really, really well,” Keith said.
That’s starting to happen as downtown wakes from the long nightmare of Rio Nuevo. Let’s hope our leaders don’t roll over and hit the snooze button.
Down the road
CenturyLink will begin relocating its existing facilities in preparation for the city of Tucson’s Downtown Links Phase III project.
Work will consist of relocating several existing underground vaults located within city rights of way, followed by a year of splicing fiber and copper communication lines.
The CenturyLink work will take place in an area bounded by Fourth Street on the north, Sixth Avenue on the east, Toole Avenue on the south and Ninth Avenue on the west.
Work is scheduled to begin today along Seventh Avenue between Fourth and Toole.
Parking will not be permitted on Seventh between Fourth and Toole.
The Pima County Department of Transportation will begin paving Silverbell Road from just north of Goret Road to Ina Road on Aug. 10.
Work includes an asphalt overlay and sealing and striping of more than 6 miles of Silverbell Road.
Pilot vehicles will be on the scene, and flaggers will direct motorists through the work zone.
Work hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.