The historic Ghost Ranch Lodge, which for years has sat crumbling, will soon reopen as low-income housing for seniors.

The first phase of construction, to revitalize the 1940s-era motor court that once sat on the gateway to Tucson, is due to be completed by Aug. 1, said John Cichon of Atlantic Development.

The first resident should be moving in on the same date, said Cichon, who is in charge of the development.

Restoration of the lodge at 801 W. Miracle Mile - easily identifiable by its Georgia O'Keeffe cow-skull sign - languished as developers worked to secure funding and tax credits.

The $12 million project was made possible through a blend of federal, state and local funds and tax credits targeted toward low-income housing and the preservation of historic properties.

The developer will preserve the architecture of the buildings arranged around a courtyard designed by prominent Tucson architect Josias Joesler. Some changes were made to accommodate the living needs of seniors, Cichon said.

"We have taken what was here, the same architectural styling, and made it work not for motel visitors but for permanent full-time residents," Cichon said.

The first phase includes 60 units of low-income housing for seniors, a clubhouse and lounge with computer access, and a dog park.

Ken Scoville, a local advocate for the preservation of historic buildings, said the restoration of the property demonstrates that developers can work with existing buildings, maintaining their historic and cultural significance, instead of just razing them and putting up new structures.

"The preservation of Ghost Ranch Lodge shows we can retain these motor courts," Scoville said.

The motor courts along Miracle Mile provide a snapshot to a time when travelers moved across the country by car, and that route was the primary entry point to Tucson, Scoville said.

Atlantic Development is still waiting to find out if it will get tax credits to fund the second phase of the project, which includes buildings on the west side of the property and the cactus garden planted by community leader Arthur Pack in the late 1940s.

Cichon said Atlantic expects to hear about those credits in coming months and, if funding is secured, it could be completed by March of next year.

The second phase, an $8.6 million project, will include 52 additional units and a community center.

The restoration of Ghost Ranch also shows promise for the revitalization of Miracle Mile, which in recent decades has built a reputation as a crime haven, said Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

"This area has been neglected by the city for decades," Uhlich said. "It became an area of high crime and little investment."

In recent years, community members have teamed up with city officials and the Tucson Police Department to improve the corridor along West Miracle Mile and North Oracle Road, Uhlich said. Another sign of improvement, she said, is the Police Department's West Division Headquarters at 1310 W. Miracle Mile, which went up a few years ago.

Uhlich said she is hopeful tax credits and funding can be secured for the second phase of Ghost Ranch, as it's important to the city's revitalization of the Miracle Mile/Oracle corridor.

"Affordable housing for seniors is a perfect fit" for the area, Uhlich said.

Historical tours today

The Ghost Ranch Lodge will be open from 9 a.m. to noon today for tours as part of the Historic Miracle Mile Tour and Festival.

Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 573-4197 or dquinn@azstarnet.com