Hoping to avoid a seven-year eyesore at a prominent central Tucson intersection, neighbors and city leaders are planning to create an aesthetically pleasing outdoor space for community members and motorists to enjoy.
The site of the former Bookmans store on Grant Road and Campbell Avenue now sits empty, surrounded by a chain-link fence.
It could be 2025 before the ongoing widening of Grant Road reaches that intersection, cutting into that property, so building something permanent is not an option.
“It’s a very visible corner and there’s a long time to go before the widening happens,” said Anne Barrett, head of the Catalina Vista Park and Landscape subcommittee. “We need something temporary and with the least impactful cost.”
After meetings with residents of four neighborhoods near the site, the idea of open space with potted plants and artwork was suggested.
The Catalina Vista neighborhood, immediately south of the site, has a small park already and neighbors like the idea of using colored rocks to create a walkway to that park from the lot rather than creating another one.
“It’s a model for how we can add vitality to underutilized urban spaces,” Barrett said, “versus a desolate corner with a fence around it for several years.”
A group of neighbors have agreed to maintain the space, rather than having the upkeep fall to the city.
“We don’t want a gathering place, we don’t want benches or trash cans,” Barrett said.
A similar concept was created on Broadway, just west of Tucson Boulevard, when a retail building was demolished in anticipation of that road widening, said City Councilman Steve Kozachik, whose Ward 6 represents neighbors at both sites.
“What would have sat there as a vacant lot is now a little parklet with benches and trees and food trucks come over now and then,” he said.
The city can’t provide major infrastructure such as plumbing and electricity and counts on donations of pavers and flower pots.
“Nobody is going to come in and say we wasted a bunch of money on something temporary,” Kozachik said.
Kozachik’s staff is working with Ward 3 Councilman Paul Durham’s staff to help the surrounding neighborhoods create the public space at Grant and Campbell and a meeting is planned for later this month to get final neighbor approval of the site plan.
“I’m glad that we’ll be able to make something useful for the community and much more attractive out of this lot,” Durham said. “We owe a thank you to the leadership of council member Kozachik and the engaged residents of Wards 3 and 6. Because of their advocacy, we’ve avoided creating an eyesore.”
Development of the open space is expected to begin this summer.