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Tucson zoning change seeks to help draw jobs to area

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An illustration shows new high-tech office buildings that could be on a parcel between West Prince Road and West Miracle Mile. The City Council has approved zoning changes to allow the buildings as well as restaurants and multifamily housing on the parcel, which is mostly vacant at this time.

Zoning changes allowing the construction of high-tech office buildings on over 100 acres of land between West Prince and West Miracle Mile roads has been approved by the City Council in an effort to draw more higher-paying employers to the area.

Office buildings can range in height from 10 to 12 stories under the new rules, called a planned area development or PAD zone. It also allows for new restaurants and multifamily housing.

Proponents of the change hope it will attract new industry to Tucson and create more job opportunities. Construction in the area is also expected to generate about $59 million in tax revenue every year.

“It’s an amazing site for infill development, especially because this will be an innovation center for the city of Tucson right in the center of our city,” Mayor Regina Romero said ahead of the City Council’s vote. “This is very, very great news for the city of Tucson.”

City documents show the new PAD zone is mostly vacant . The Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on it’s southern portion represents the bulk of the area’s existing infrastructure.

The Zoning Examiner held a public hearing about the new rules in August following months of development by staffers from Ward 3 and outside planners.

Residents voiced concerns about the plan’s lack of set design guidelines for new construction projects across the PAD zone’s nine development areas.

“Because of the nature of this PAD, and the fact that the developers haven’t yet identified individual tenants and occupants, design guidelines are not spelled out for each development,” said Ward 3 council member Karin Uhlich. “The zoning examiner, in concert with our office, did include the additional condition that addresses the issue.”

The ordinance passed by the City Council will require developers to submit design plans to the city during the application process. Residents in the affected areas can review and give feedback on those plans before they are approved by city staff.

Planners said the next step is to attract companies that will want to build in the new PAD zone, and employers who will bring their businesses — and jobs — to the area.

“A lot of times, you do these rezonings and sometimes you don’t see anything happen or it doesn’t happen for a number of years,” said Brian Underwood of The Planning Center, a Tucson urban design firm that’s been involved in the PAD’s development. “Hopefully we’ll start to see something happen there soon, and something that will make a big impact here in town.”

Reporter Sam Kmack covers local government. Contact him at skmack@tucson.com.


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