Downtown’s most colorful office complex may be razed by year’s end.
Developers are in the early stages of planning an apartment complex on the site of the iconic La Placita Village, at 110 S. Church Ave. at Broadway.
It is one of several projects to bring housing to the west side of downtown, in what proponents say is the latest — and most significant — phase of revitalizing downtown. More than 1,000 apartment units will come online or begin construction this year, ranging from affordable housing for seniors and veterans to luxury condominiums.
“There are still many moving pieces, but it’s a very exciting project,” said Omar Mireles, president of HSL Properties, which owns La Placita Village.
If the apartments get built, they will be among a new cluster of units. Across the street from La Placita, developers are planning a seven-story complex with 75 units for senior housing at the site of the Bishop Moreno Pastor Center, 111 S. Church Ave. Another eight senior apartments are planned at Marist College.
Construction is already underway for a 40-unit complex at 1 W. Broadway. And several other projects are expected to break ground this year.
“This is as exciting as it gets from a city-planning point of view,” said Michael Keith, CEO of Downtown Tucson Partnership.
He said the La Placita project is especially exciting because “surprisingly, there’s very little support for keeping La Placita in place.”
The complex, which opened in 1973, has more than 200,000 square feet of office and restaurant space and a 500-car parking garage. Developers plan to maintain the Samaniego House on the southeast side of La Placita and, with the influx of residents, could secure a new restaurant operator.
For now, there are no plans to reopen the adjacent Hotel Arizona, which is also owned by HSL Properties, said company chairman Humberto S. Lopez. Lopez closed the hotel four years ago after failing in a bid to get taxpayers to help finance a renovation of the run-down property. Since then downtown has lacked a hotel close to the Tucson Convention Center, but a 137-room, eight-story AC Hotel by Marriott is under construction at the northwest corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
Mireles, who recently took the helm of the company, said that once the La Placita redevelopment is underway, he’ll reconsider the future of the Hotel Arizona — and he’s not ruling out that the property will become a hotel once again.
“We hope that by then the market dynamics will be such that we can be in a position to consider a redevelopment of that property,” Mireles said. “We are definitely interested in reopening the hotel; however, the market conditions have to be favorable. Unfortunately, the current market conditions do not allow for a reopening at this point in time.”
While Mireles said HSL officials continue to believe that the highest and best use for the property is indeed a hotel, other options for the space include a large grocer or movie theater.
HSL acquired La Placita in 2011 when owners BP La Placita Village Investors defaulted on a $2 million deed trust on the property. The beneficiary of the loan was Lopez Family-Transamerica Holdings, managed by Lopez.
The complex has changed hands several times in its 43 years and talk of it becoming home to high-rise apartments or condominiums has always topped the list of possible uses.
Now, the prospect seems more likely as other residential units pop up around the area.
The 30-unit Rally Point Apartments for veterans at 101 S. Stone Ave., and 44 units of affordable housing at the Downtown Motor Court on Stone Avenue south of Broadway, are both underway.
Also, the new owners of Tucson’s tallest building, One South Church, plan a twin tower with some residential units.
“Right now, if you build it they will come,” Keith said. “There’s huge demand for a variety of housing downtown and when you look at what’s being built, it’s diverse from price point and concept.”
Customers include baby boomers looking to downgrade; Foothills dwellers wanting a weekend studio downtown; millennials in search of walkability and urban lifestyles; and seniors in need of affordable housing close to transit.
“We think each successful housing development is contributing to the viability of the next project,” Keith said. “You’re creating your own demand each time a project is completed.”