Despite its rough façade, South 12th Avenue, with its mom-and-pop shops, is the heart of Tucson’s commercial Latino district.
But some merchants, activists and local leaders fear their efforts to transform South 12th Avenue into a cultural and tourist corridor could turn to dust if the county doesn’t include a proposed improvement project in a future bond election.
County Chief Administrator Chuck Huckelberry opposes placing the South 12th Avenue corridor in the 2015 bond election.
In a letter sent to Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, Huckelberry wrote that he was recommending to the Pima County Bond Advisory Committee to remove from consideration four projects from the bond election, including South 12th Avenue.
“So long as the improvements are in publicly owned right of way, there should be no legal concern. However, these improvements would be eligible under the county’s existing neighborhood reinvestment program instead of duplicating programs,” Huckelberry wrote.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero, who supports the South 12th Avenue project, part of which is in her district, said she is relying more than ever on Supervisor Richard Elías’ support. She added that without his help and the projected $1.5 million in bond funds, the dreams of the South 12th Avenue supporters will not be realized.
“He is pivotal,” she said.
Several merchants who are members of the South Side Business Coalition said they were worried that Elías has not spoken out against Huckelberry’s memo. But after a recent meeting with Elías, he reaffirmed his support for the project.
“I think Mr. Huckelberry is between a rock and a hard place. I have not heard one single board member say that they do not support the project,” Elías said. “He is not a board member. He certainly has a lot of power, but he does not have a vote.”
Restaurant owner Benjamín Galaz , the South Side Business Coalition president, said that although the merchants would indirectly gain something by beautifying the area, the real winner would be the community, which needs something like this to lift its spirit.
Romero agreed. She added that one of the good byproducts of the effort to improve South 12th Avenue is that before the merchants and some community members were nonchalant about their community, but the cause has managed to pump them up.
“Its admirable that after a 12-, 15-hour day, they still want to make sure that they are doing the right thing by contributing to their city,” Romero said. “It’s good to see the business and property owners of that area are starting to see beyond their businesses and look towards their communities.”