Developers are ready to break ground on a multi-use project at a unique Tucson intersection where four historic neighborhoods converge.
The Baffert at Five Points will be built at 747 S. Sixth Ave.
The modern residential complex will be framed by two brick towers in a nod to the surrounding architecture in Barrio Viejo, Barrio Santa Rosa, Armory Park and Santa Rita Park.
There will be 14 apartments with underground parking and 5,400 square feet for retail and restaurant use on the ground floor.
“We love the location and the history,” said Larry Kappler, who is developing the project along with his wife, Rebecca, and son Karl.
“You know how Manhattan is the hub of all things New York, but many people like to live in Brooklyn?” he asked. “Well, we want Five Points to be the Brooklyn of downtown Tucson.”
Five Points is the name commonly used for the intersection of Sixth Avenue, Stone Avenue and 18th Street.
After buying the lot in 2015, Kappler had several neighborhood meetings to get feedback about what would be built there.
The biggest concern was that parking could encroach into the neighborhoods.
Last year, Kappler bought adjacent land when Tom Epperson closed and sold the Wanslee Auto Sales, whose iconic Ugly But Honest sign remains across the street where the original sales office and small lot once were.
Kappler is renovating that space for his leasing office with a small art gallery and the sign will remain standing.
The Baffert at Five Points is named after the Baffert family — part of the Laos Family Trust — who sold the lot to the Kappler famiy.
The apartments will range in size from one to three bedrooms and be geared toward families and empty-nesters.
“My mantra is that we have the best location, the best building and the best tenants that appreciate living there,” Kappler said.
He expects to break ground early next year and anticipates 10 to 12 months of construction.
The architect is David E. Shambach and the general contractor is Kappler’s son, Nathan, who took over the family business, Kappcon General Contracting.
“My dad is a builder and retired about 10 years ago but he still hasn’t stopped building,” Nathan said. “Some guys want to retire and play golf, my dad wants to be out there working with his hands.”
Nathan Kappler has worked on other residential projects near Five Points and believes the area will be transformed in the coming years.
“It’s a very difficult community to build in with all the historic neighborhoods coming together at that point,” he said. “But dad sees the undeveloped potential and is going to come up with something pretty neat.”
The Baffert development will sit in the Armory Park Neighborhood Association boundaries and residents were very vigilant about the project, said Anne Cooper, president of the neighborhood association.
“There are people who are not happy about it and there are people who are encouraged by the development,” she said. “People were very happy about the use of the brick — the homage to the neighborhoods.”
Because part of the property had to be taken out of the historic district for rezoning, there was a fear that it would set a precedent, Cooper said.
Working with the Kapplers and Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik, that matter was resolved so that it was a unique transaction and did not open up all parcels in the neighborhood for removal of historic designation.
The residents’ parking concerns were eased by the addition of an underground garage.
“Many of these homes don’t have garages,” Cooper said, “because many of these houses were built when we still had horse and buggies.”
Dorothy Epperson, whose late husband, Tom, sold Kappler the dealership land, is eager to see the finished project.
“I am so happy with what he is doing and so is my mother-in-law,” she said of 91-year-old Doris Wanslee, whose husband Clyde founded the dealership in 1933.
“It’s nice to see the touches Larry wants to make and the things he wants to keep in place,” Epperson said. “Larry is a lot like Tom was and Tom was happy with what was going to be done at the lot.”