Revitalization efforts along Broadway, just east of downtown, are moving forward as developers toss around mixed-use projects and an architectural firm, that helped pioneer downtown’s rebirth, relocates to the “Sunshine Mile.”

Developers and owners of the Welcome Diner, 902 E. Broadway, are hoping to buy the adjacent city-owned land that was once a Volvo dealership.

During a recent presentation to the Rio Nuevo board, Sloane McFarland said he imagined a “mercado-like element” at the site, just east of Euclid Ave.

The infill development might even be home to a hotel, he said.

The board took no position on the proposed project but asked McFarland to return when plans are more concrete.

The board did, however, unanimously approve a lease with an architectural firm to move its offices to Broadway’s Sunshine Mile, between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road.

Local architects FORS Architecture moved downtown eight years ago as a sign of faith in what was to come.

“Indeed, they are true pioneers,” Rio Nuevo Board chairman Fletcher McCusker said at a recent meeting. “(They) have been largely responsible for most of the restaurant activity in and around our downtown.

“And lo and behold, this extraordinary group of people has endorsed the Sunshine Mile and actually wants to move their office to Broadway.”

Rio Nuevo unanimously voted to approve a 25-year lease with FORS to buy the building for $255,000 and lease it back to the firm for $1,000 a year.

Aside from its office, FORS will open a retail shop and contract furniture showroom at the space, 2020 and 2022 E. Broadway.

FORS was the firm that was part of the development of the AC Hotel, Playground, Penca, Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails and Borderland among 20 other developments downtown.

“We were early adopters in downtown,” FORS principal Miguel Fuentevilla told the board. “We drank the punch, or Kool-Aid, as people say.”

The Broadway buildings are currently being renovated and FORS hopes to move from its current location at 245 E. Congress St., to the new space next year.

Rio Nuevo has signed a contract with Project for Public Spaces out of New York to develop the Sunshine Mile.

The city of Tucson is in the process of acquiring 39 properties to be deeded to Rio Nuevo to work with the private sector to reactivate them, mostly as food and beverage, restaurants, cafes and retail.

Among the unique architectural styles on the strip is Broadway Village, built in 1939; the Murphey Building, built in 1961 and the Kelly Building, built in 1964.

Visit sunshinemile.com for more information on the project.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz.

Reporter

Gabriela's newspaper career began at the Tucson Citizen in '86 as the "movie-times girl" where she'd call local theaters for showtimes. Since then, she's written about crime, education, immigration, trade and business. She's been with the Star since 2007.