Archive for October 11th, 2009

11th October
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our disfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

If you serve on the Rio Nuevo oversight board the odds are pretty good that you’re going to end up with some personal benefits not available to the non-player. Case in point, Jeff DiGregorioowner of the Royal Elizabeth Inn and proud owner of $5 million in Rio Nuevo upgrades on Scott Street, a dead end that leads right to his property.

From May 2, 2009 – The Arizona Daily Star’s Rob O’Dell:

Although the board is supposed to oversee the district’s finances, it did not meet for nearly 11 months between September 2007 and July 30, 2008, when it met three days after an Arizona Daily Star investigation revealed for the first time the city had spent $77 million on Rio Nuevo.

DiGregorio said the board wants to meet in closed session to see “what is legally available to us.”

He said, “We want the district board to be as flexible as possible,” adding that included amending the agreement with the city and finding new management for Rio Nuevo at a later date.

Councilwoman Nina Trasoff also said the board is looking at changing the agreement so the board has more flexibility. “This is a very intelligent and deliberate group that is simply looking at options,” she said.

I guess we dropped $5 million on DiGregorio’s slice of heaven. The $5 included an orange griffin, engraved street signs and lighting. Remember, the money used for the street-scape came from Rio Nuevo funds, controlled by DiGregorio, Eckstrom and Ann Marie-Rusell (she snagged a $29m project with a $1 city lease for her MOCA museum).

The griffin, which cost $31,500 to construct, was built using public-art money set aside in the Scott Avenue streetscape budget. The public-art budget was administered by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for the city.
Every penny that was spent on the griffin was spent locally, O’Connell told us.
The streetscape project was financed by Rio Nuevo funds. Money used to improve the street’s water lines came from Tucson Water. Construction of the new streetscape, including the water lines, cost $4.92 million, said project manager Fran LaSala. That doesn’t include design costs.

From the Rio Nuevo districts minutes:

      

   

 

Board Member DiGregorio extended an invitation to everyone to attend the

completion ceremony/celebration of the Scott Avenue infrastructure and

streetscape project on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m. It is another successful

Rio Nuevo project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When discussing a Rio Nuevo audit – again from O’Dell at the Arizona Star:

Trasoff said the Rio Nuevo board provides good oversight but needs more visibility. This is no board of pushovers. They are far from a rubber stamp,” she said.
There are two members appointed by Tucson — Anne Marie-Russell, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Jeff DiGregorio, owner of Downtown’s Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast Inn.But a weighted voting system gives them the power to override the two members from South Tucson, former Pima County Supervisor Dan Eckstrom and Roman Soltero, a former City Council member.
The board did not meet for nearly 11 months between September 2007 and July 30, 2008, when it met three days after an Arizona Daily Star investigation revealed for the first time the city had spent $77 million on Rio Nuevo.
A comment from the AZ Star. We’re not sure who wrote it or if it’s correct but worth some discussion:
51. Comment by Joe B. (tucsoncool) — October 3,2009 @ 8:44AM
Ratings:   -1 +17
Maybe its time to start investigating the preferential treatment Jeff DiGregorio, Anne-Marie Russell and the other members of the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Board receive. One hand washes the other.
Just look at the ethically dubious quid pro quo that has gone on so far: Jeff and his partner Chuck own the Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast on Scott Ave., (they wheel and deal even, in part, responsible for bringing Glen Lyons to Tucson) and suddenly almost magically Scott Ave. is the first and so far only street to get a comprehensive and complete redo. Not the major downtown streets like Congress, 6th Broadway or Toole. – within weeks of the completion of this major city investment of millions, guess what, the Royal Elizabeth is on the Market for 1.5 million. Glad these two are invested in heart of downtown for the long run.
“Jeff and Chuck” are nasty power grabbing bullies. In addition to the RNMB,their CV currently includes the Armory Park Neighborhood president, the Iron Horse Neighborhood president and the downtown neighborhood council – what next?
Now lets take a little look Anne Marie. Anne Marie is the executive director ofMOCA. (That’s the Museum of Cotemporary Art) haven’t heard of it? That might be because MOCA is the nomad of Museums moving about every 9 months and producing limited to no programming subsides by the city below market rent. – but lets be honest about it: MOCA is not even accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM). and the little recent programming that has gone on has been highly unethical ignoring national AAM standards for exhibiting borrowed objects. http://www.aam-us.org/museumresources/ethics/borrowb.cfm MOCA invites artists to exhibit work that is for sale, has no curatorial input, and then takes a cut of art sold.
But the city keeps giving MOCA preferential treatment over other non-profits. Why is there no city standard.
With this sort of give back to the committee of 4 !!!!! It is really no wonder Dan Eckstrom (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/extreme-eckstrom/Content?oid=1069473) is the newest appointee! Hello? This politico has been submerged in scandal and questionable ethics for decades running the City of South Tucson from a corner table at Riggo’s – if you need an update on how South Tucson is doing the Weekly ran a feature this week. (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/falling-apart/Content?oid=1399765)
 
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11th October
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

MOCA gets sweet heart deal for old fire station. $1 rent for modern art museum.

With a little digging we found that the Tucson Fire Department headquarters has been replaced with a new $29m home of the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art. I guess you could say our leaders have set their priorities. For those of you that haven’t been to the MOCA – below is a picture from their web site of what you’re in for.  Don’t bring the kids because it might be tough to explain.

Back in 07′ when discussions of moving police and fire headquarters were taking place the Star ran a story hitting that MOCA may be in line:

The prospect of police headquarters moving has never been publicly discussed. But the Museum of Contemporary Art, whose executive director Anne-Marie Russell, has close ties with City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, is already making a pitch to move in.

It’s about priorities and I guess we know where our city leaders focus is.

Finally, a renderand construction photo of the new Fire Dept. headquarters being built at Cushing and Granada near the convention center. The current headquarters will subsequently be remodeled into a new space for Tucson MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art).


(render: WSM Architects; photo: Benjie Sanders)

About 150 construction workers are building Fire Central
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
03.12.2009

About 150 people are working today to build Fire Central, the Tucson Fire Department’s new headquarters Downtown. That number includes workers for Sundt Construction, the general contractor, and those working for 19 subcontractors, says Sundt spokesman Charlie Boyd. The contract value to Sundt is $29.7 million, he says. The 65,000-square-foot structure, going in on the south side of Cushing Street near Granada Avenue, is scheduled to be finished in September.

The real story is why does MOCA get a sweet heart deal like this? Who’s behind the modern art soon to be hanging in the City owned ex-fire-station? None other than the art crusader on the Councilwoman Nina Trasoff. From Nina’s campaign site:

MOCA has a new home:Once the Tucson Fire Department moves into its new home on Cushing Street later this year, the Museum of Contemporary Art will begin moving into the old Fire Central, bringing another arts organization into the area near the Arizona Theatre Company, the Tucson Children’s Museum, galleries, restaurants and more. I’m proud to have led the way in making this partnership a reality!

The executive director of MOCA, Anne-Marie Russel is also the chairwoman of The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District. This group works with the city via Shelko to plan ALL of Rio Nuevo’s happenings.  The panel is appointed by Mayor and Council. Trasoff and Leal are on the sub-committee that oversees Rio Nuevo from the Cities side and works with the Mulitpurpose Facilities Dsitrict. From the Tucson Citizen.

The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District is under the jurisdiction of a four-member board that includes chairwoman Anne-Marie Russell, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art; Jeff DiGregorio, owner of the Royal Elizabeth Bed & Breakfast; Roman Soltero, principal of Tully Elementary Magnet School; and Dan Eckstrom, a former Pima County supervisor

More on Jeff DoGregorio and the Royal Elizabeth’s $5m project later. I guess if you want to get something done with Rio Nuevo joining this board is a pretty good idea.

From the MOCA web site. We aren’t making a value judgement on the merit of the art work. We are making a judgement on the priorities of funding arts over police and fire. I wonder if the old Fire Department Headquarters could have been used a better purpose.

state

Big dicks #1
From Quickening
Jainie Scholnick

A great comment from the AZ Star. Not sure who wrote it but we’ll pass it along:

51. Comment by Joe B. (tucsoncool) — October 3,2009 @ 8:44AM
Ratings:   -1 +17
Maybe its time to start investigating the preferential treatment Jeff DiGregorio, Anne-Marie Russell and the other members of the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Board receive. One hand washes the other.
Just look at the ethically dubious quid pro quo that has gone on so far: Jeff and his partner Chuck own the Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast on Scott Ave., (they wheel and deal even, in part, responsible for bringing Glen Lyons to Tucson) and suddenly almost magically Scott Ave. is the first and so far only street to get a comprehensive and complete redo. Not the major downtown streets like Congress, 6th Broadway or Toole. – within weeks of the completion of this major city investment of millions, guess what, the Royal Elizabeth is on the Market for 1.5 million. Glad these two are invested in heart of downtown for the long run.
“Jeff and Chuck” are nasty power grabbing bullies. In addition to the RNMB,their CV currently includes the Armory Park Neighborhood president, the Iron Horse Neighborhood president and the downtown neighborhood council – what next?
Now lets take a little look Anne Marie. Anne Marie is the executive director ofMOCA. (That’s the Museum of Cotemporary Art) haven’t heard of it? That might be because MOCA is the nomad of Museums moving about every 9 months and producing limited to no programming subsides by the city below market rent. – but lets be honest about it: MOCA is not even accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM). and the little recent programming that has gone on has been highly unethical ignoring national AAM standards for exhibiting borrowed objects. http://www.aam-us.org/museumresources/ethics/borrowb.cfm MOCA invites artists to exhibit work that is for sale, has no curatorial input, and then takes a cut of art sold.
But the city keeps giving MOCA preferential treatment over other non-profits. Why is there no city standard.
With this sort of give back to the committee of 4 !!!!! It is really no wonder Dan Eckstrom (
http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/extreme-eckstrom/Content?oid=1069473) is the newest appointee! Hello? This politico has been submerged in scandal and questionable ethics for decades running the City of South Tucson from a corner table at Riggo’s – if you need an update on how South Tucson is doing the Weekly ran a feature this week. (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/falling-apart/Content?oid=1399765)

11th October
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

The Stitler/Martin deal involved trading city owned land for a series on concessions aimed at getting the 4 votes needed to pass the City Council.  Scrappys is blocks away from the development and completely unrelated. WAMO is a long story which we’ll be covering in detail at a later day. From the Tucson Weekly:

In response, Stiteler and Martin walked away from the deal, which would have the developers rehabbing some of their own property (including the Rialto block), passing out some cash to various downtown beneficiaries (including youth-club Skrappy’s and the Warehouse Arts Management Organization) and jumping through a few more hoops. In exchange, they would have received about $4 million in city property, including a former Volvo dealership on Broadway Boulevard east of downtown, and some of the Ronstadt Transit Center property along Congress Street.

Tags:
11th October
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

From today’s Star, Rob O’Dell is reporting that two developers with over $4 million in projects hinging on an upcoming vote by the Tucson City Council held a fundraiser to for Council incumbents, Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich.  We expect a recused from the upcoming vote on the developers vote AT THE VERY LEAST.

From Saturday’s Star:

Campbell’s agreement, which calls for the city to finance a public parking garage on his property, comes to the council for a final vote on Tuesday.

Stiteler’s and Martin’s development agreement comes up for final approval June 16, and the two previously met with the council last Tuesday, three days after the fundraiser.

The city and developers have been negotiating since December.

The Stiteler/Martin proposal calls for the city to give the developers $4 million worth of city properties in exchange for guarantees they will promptly complete the commercial development of properties they already own and spend $5 million on affordable housing and Downtown community groups.

Campbell needs the city to build a $3 million parking garage on East Congress Street, across from the former Greyhound site, where he plans 104 units for University of Arizona students and more than 46,000 square feet of shops, bars and a gym.

Trasoff, Uhlich and Martin all said the donations were aboveboard, adding that politicians need to raise money in order to compete in and win elections. The Democratic council members said they would never allow a political donation to influence their decisions.

How is this any different from – HERE? or HERE or HERE.

11th October
2009
written by Jupiter Jones

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

Museum Politics: Red-headed Stepchild Tucson Museum of Art Might Leave Downtown, while Mayor’s Wife Delivers The Bacon for Tucson Children’s Museum

The way the City of Tucson has handled the Tucson Museum of Art during the “Rio Nuevo Era” is a great example of what happens when you pay undue attention to going after what you DON’T have, rather than paying enough attention to save or retain what you DO have.

The plan that was presented to the voters in 1999 included $2 million out of a projected $60 million to go to the Tucson Museum of Art – about 3.5% of the total Rio Nuevo project.

Once the Rio Nuevo funds started rolling in-the first check arrived on Halloween of 2003, according to the Rio Nuevo website-it soon became apparent that the growth in retail activity at El Con and Park Place would yield two times or more what the city had projected.   Good thing, because the Rio Nuevo master plan had already expanded the original vision of the project, and it was clearly going to take much more than $60 million to realize it.

By the time the State of Arizona had granted a 12-year extension of the TIF funding to the City of Tucson in 2006, the vision and its associated costs had already spiraled out-of-control.

Dream Big or Go Home!
With Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson at the helm, idea after expensive idea emerged:

  1. The Sonoran Sea Aquarium lost its place in the plan, replaced by a much more expensive new arena.
  2. The “Civic Plaza” west of the Tucson Convention Center was over-designed to the tune of several tens of millions of dollars, with a proposed 1,000-space garage underneath a grand plaza, between the arena and the TCC complex.
  3. And of course, the science center had gone from a $100 million project to something like $350 million, with the concept design of a rainbow bridge that would be a quarter-mile long and 350 feet tall.

Whatever extra money was expected to come in from the extension of Rio Nuevo was surely going to be eaten up by these new projects.

The allocation to the Tucson Museum of Art both before and after the TIF extension was still $2 million.  With projections of $600 million or more from the extension, that $2 million was now just 0.33% of the TIF, compared to 3.5% of the original pool.

The Presidio Terrace Factor

New, modern, hip housing is a necessary component of a revitalized downtown; without an active population to live and thrive the entire project would be a tough sell.  By this time, Thoreson had embarked on an ambitious plan to build new housing in downtown, but the goal of 1,200 new units by 2006 that she talked the council into projecting was clearly beyond the city’s grasp. By about 1,000 units, as it turned out.

One of the sites that was identified for housing development was Lot 7, adjacent to the Tucson Water building and across Main Avenue from the Tucson Museum of Art.  Definitely a no-brainer as an attractive site for a mid-rise, upscale residential development.

This project became known as “Presidio Terrace” and it could be the topic of its own post, but it’s important here because the parking lot at the Presidio Terrace site was leased to the museum for its employees and visitors.  In order to build Presidio Terrace, the city and the developer would have to satisfy the museum’s need for parking.  During the planning for PT, it was decided that the promised $2 million Rio Nuevo contribution to TMA would be for a public parking garage underneath the housing development, with some number of spaces allocated for the museum’s use.

TMA was always adamant about maintaining parking there, but you have to wonder why that $2 million replacement of parking was all TMA would ever get out of Rio Nuevo.

Meanwhile, Other Museums Felt the Rio Nuevo Love

Why were TMA’s own ambitious plans for expansion met with a deaf ear, when the Arizona Historical Society’s new museum, the UA’s new museums, and the Tucson Children’s Museum’s new building, all got huge allocations in the revised, post-TIF extension Rio Nuevo plan?

The revised Rio Nuevo plan that unfolded in the year after the TIF extension now called for the proposed new museums, including the science center, to be located around a new “Cultural Plaza” on the west side of the Santa Cruz, north of the Convento reconstruction.

  • Joining the Arizona State Museum, Arizona History Museum, and UA Science Center would be a new home for the Tucson Children’s Museum.
  • In a May 22, 2007 memo to the City Council. city manager Mike Hein outlined a plan for allocating the half-billion or so in projected Rio Nuevo funds, and, in addition to $130 million for the science center and Arizona State Museum, it had $60 million for “Other Museums”, which included $10 million for a new Tucson Children’s Museum building.

Co-locating the Children’s Museum on a museum campus certainly has the potential to create synergies, particularly with the science center.  However, the original allocation of funds for the Children’s Museum from Rio Nuevo was intended to renovate the museum in its Carnegie Library location, not to relocate it out of downtown to a new building.

How did the Children’s Museum get added to the plan, and get promised a hefty allocation of TIF money?  Could Mayor Walkup’s wife Beth’s long-time involvement with the TCM have played a role?

Tucson Museum of Art – Rio Nuevo’s Red Headed Step-Child

City officials and their emissaries have reportedly told museum staff that:

  • There is another available parcel of land near the Cultural Plaza that could be held for the TMA, but TMA would have to pay all the costs of a new building there itself.
  • If the museum leaves for a better arrangement in Marana, Oro Valley, or the Foothills, “we’ll just get someone else in there” (in the TMA’s existing building). (Who, exactly? The fledgling Museum of Contemporary Art?)

Council Member Nina Trasoff, whose Ward 6 does not include the museum and Historic Block, but whose council subcommittee oversees arts, culture, and history in addition to Rio Nuevo and downtown, has done little to combat the perception that she’s not a fan of the museum, or of the western art that it exhibits (along with many other genres).   Cowboy art is not everyone’s bag, but in a place like Tucson, it obviously has to be part of the mix.

Pima County obviously doesn’t care much for the museum or its growth, or at least for its vision of expanding TMA into an iconic downtown landmark owned by the county.  When the museum revived a decades-old vision of using portions of the Old Pima County Courthouse for additional exhibit space, Chuck and the Chuckettes underwhelmed TMA board and staff with their response.

The City pays the museum something like $80,000 a year to maintain the historic properties on the museum campus, the “Historic Block”.  This likely does not cover the costs of maintaining the Casa Cordova, the Romero House, the J. Knox Corbett House, and the rest.  This is hardly a grand gesture of support.

Sometime in 2007, it apparently dawned on the Tucson Museum of Art that it really wasn’t part of anyone’s plan for downtown.  The Presidio Terrace deal had fallen apart;  the expansion to the courthouse wasn’t going to happen; and Rio Nuevo had increased its funding for all of the other museums, while allocating nothing for TMA. Without feeling the love, TMA went looking for greener pastures.

So when developer Mike Hansen came a-courtin’, TMA listened.  Hansen dangled the prospect of several acres of prime Foothills real estate near La Encantada for a new TMA campus.  Later, there were overtures, or rumors of overtures, from Oro Valley and Marana.

The Tucson Museum of Art is one project that won’t lose much if Rio Nuevo falls apart-it wasn’t getting much anyway.  Still, with the air let out of the Rio Nuevo bubble, it’s hard to imagine that those overtures from Tucson’s neighbors to the north are going to do anything but gain strength and momentum, bad economy or not.

‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’

If Rio Nuevo’s bubble does, in fact, collapse, there won’t be new museums on the west side of the downtown area.  But you can’t really lose what you never had.  If Tucson Museum of Art leaves downtown of its own accord, because another Pima County town wanted it more than Tucson wanted it, downtown WOULD lose something that it already had.

Does it even need to be said what a pitiful shame that would be? Is Tucson prepared to lose the TMA, just like it is losing Triple A baseball, spring training, Rio Nuevo, and god forbid, the Gem Shows?  At some point, you have to stop the bleeding and decide what is important to protect.

Maybe the Tucson Museum of Art just needs some better-connected board members – that might be one way to get things going.

11th October
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

Check out x4mr’s post regarding O’Dell’s story on moving staffers from the City of Tucson over to   Downtown Tucson Partnership. I’ve always contented that the best part of these online stories are the comments from readers. Apparently the spin machine is in full swing with Lady Rubysky posting some inside scoop negative stuff.  Lady Rubysky is allegedly  Cara Rene, the downtown communications director, wife of Nina Trasoff’s chief of staff and someone earning $65k.

I hit on a recent Pay To Play. With downtown developers fundraising for Trasoff and Uhlich the same week they were going need votes from Trasoff and Uhlich for their projects. (Uhlich and Romero voted NO and Trasoff and the rest of the council voted YES.) Maybe this post isn’t too far off?

A fish stinks from it’s head and it sure does smell around here.

Follow the string of comments HERE.

11th October
2009
written by madge

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

Follow the bouncing ball…..

From Uhlich’s city web site:

Karin served as the Executive Director of Primavera Services (Primavera Foundation) for nine years, an affordable housing/job training and homeless services agency with an annual budget of $2 million and a staff of 50 people.

From yesterday’s AZ Star:

The Primavera Foundation is working with the Downtown Tucson Partnership to try to broker a deal with city officials to donate or sell for far below market value 1.6 acres the city owns southeast of West St. Mary’s Road and the westbound Interstate 10 frontage road, Primavera Executive Director Peggy Hutchison said.

This is as good as the “Beth Walkup – Children’s Museum” story we ran a few weeks ago….HERE.

Hello AZ Star are you out there?

“People shouldn’t expect the mass media to do investigative stories. That job belongs to the ‘fringe’ media.” Ted Koppel

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11th October
2009
written by Arizona Kid

Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.

Downtown Development Corp. has made little progress
Group becomes caretaker for 2 parking lots
October 10, 2008, 7:55 p.m.
A private corporation the Tucson City Council formed in 1979 to develop downtown has done little in the past 15 years other than oversee a couple of parking lots.

The Downtown Development Corp. (DDC) is emblematic of the stop-and-go nature of downtown redevelopment stretching back to the 1950s.

When founded nearly 30 years ago, it was charged with taking the lead in revitalizing the broad swath of downtown.

Today, several other entities have moved to the forefront, including the city’s Rio Nuevo office and the Downtown Tucson Partnership, while the DDC has sat on the sidelines.

Now the DDC – and its parking lots – may be absorbed into the public-private downtown partnership.

The DDC largely boils down to one person: Doug Kennedy, a City Council member for 13 months until he was recalled in 1977, who took charge in 1995.

He gets $45,000 a year as DDC’s president while turning over $56,000 or less in annual parking lot revenues to the Tucson Industrial Development Authority (IDA), another agency created by the council in 1979 to handle financing for downtown development.

Kennedy and Glenn Lyons, who heads the partnership, have had initial talks about the partnership managing the DDC’s lots: the 289-space Lot 175 across Court Avenue from El Charro Café and bounded by Church Avenue and Franklin and Council streets, and a 60-space lot a block away at Council and Stone Avenue.

“They are an organization that should take it over,” Kennedy said. “They are probably better suited than I am.”

Lot 175 clearly intrigues Lyons. With its roughly 100,000 square feet, it is deemed downtown’s prime remaining lot with no buildings. But Lyons is waiting for Kennedy to iron out a financial tangle with the IDA, which is a 49 percent limited partner with the DDC in the two parking lots.

“I think (Lot 175) is a really good developable site,” Lyons said. “As the market returns, this is an excellent site to get lower-density housing facing Court and higher-density facing Church. I just think this one is coming. (Kennedy’s) gotta sort out his stuff with IDA.”

The DDC and IDA were established by the City Council to largely work in tandem. The DDC was to serve as the development arm for the first-generation Rio Nuevo redevelopment on the West Side. And the IDA, a public entity, was the financing arm.

In 1985, the DDC and IDA jointly bought Lot 175 and a year later a plot at Washington Street and Church. At that time, the IDA loaned the DDC $907,000 to partially fund the purchase.

That sum has never been repaid or its use even itemized, which is one of IDA’s pillars of contention with Kennedy, along with uncertainty that IDA is getting its full share of revenue from the parking lots, said Jaime Gutierrez, IDA’s president.

Kennedy has sent about $345,000 in parking lot revenue to the IDA since 1999, according to data provided by IDA.

Gutierrez and Kennedy have exchanged letters on the subject since Aug. 1.

“It’s a cash basis,” Gutierrez said about the parking lots. “We don’t have a lot of that information. It came to a head in the last six or seven months that we need a better accounting. I think we need to have a clear picture of what is out there.”

“He gets quarterly financial statements,” Kennedy responded. “What information are they missing? I provide everything to them. Or are we dealing with people that have some sort of other agenda?”

Ousted in recall election
Kennedy’s 13-month stint on the City Council ended in 1977 when he and two other council members were ousted in Tucson’s first successful recall election. The recall was launched after four council members, including Kennedy, approved large water rate increases averaging about 22 percent.

Kennedy’s reticence to do anything other than operate a parking lot at Lot 175 has reinforced a decades-long frustration among downtown leaders about DDC’s inactivity and its reluctance to disclose the most basic information, such as the corporation’s intentions and who is on its board.

“I do think there are some serious questions of their history,” City Council member Shirley Scott said. “What has been done on behalf of the city and the money involved? I have some very strong concerns about them.”

“I’m on every committee,” said downtown attorney Michael Crawford, who chairs the Tucson Convention Center board and was a City Council member from 1995 to 1997. “The thing about the DDC is, I don’t know what they do. I know what they’re supposed to do. Other than collect parking fees, I have no idea (what they do).”

City Councilman Steve Leal sent a memo to City Attorney Mike Rankin in August asking basic questions about the DDC, such as why it was created, when it ceased doing its mission and whether the city gave it money and land. Leal also requested a list of board and staff members spanning its history.

“They were created for a purpose and failed,” Leal said. “Instead of doing away with them, they were just left there. They seemed to pick up their own mission and agenda separate from what they were created for.”

In 1979, West Side residents fumed that the DDC’s 15-member board and 37-member advisory council had no West Side residents, even though a large share of DDC’s activities would focus on the West Side. They easily won the support of then-state Sen. Jaime Gutierrez, who today is IDA’s president and associate vice president of community relations at the University of Arizona.

“There was a discussion of what (DDC was) going to do to us,” Gutierrez said recently. “Back then my issue was there was a lot of concern what would happen. (West Side residents) did not want a rehash of the Tucson Community Center (today called the Tucson Convention Center) wiping out the barrio.”

The DDC’s primary accomplishments came in the 1980s with the development of a string of apartment and housing projects around St. Mary’s Road and Grande Avenue, plus the 120 La Entrada apartments (66 apartments were added in 2004) and 15 townhomes along Granada Avenue north of Alameda Street. La Entrada was initially promised at 400 homes.

Halfway through its history, the DDC foundered in near bankruptcy until the City Council assumed a $1.25 million loan in 1994.

Larry Hecker, a Tucson attorney and member of both the DDC and Downtown Tucson Partnership boards, attributes DDC’s decline to changes in the tax laws in the mid-1980s involving industrial tax bonds and to the savings and loan crisis and real estate crash in Arizona.

Since then, the DDC has morphed into a phantom organization, described variously as “near defunct” in 1998 and now as a “caretaker” of two surface parking lots.

Kennedy forthrightly answers why nothing has been built on the parking lots. He has given a similar answer for years.

“Let me ask you the question,” Kennedy said. “What’s been developed in downtown Tucson in 25 years? A lot of it is the market. A lot is infrastructure. There is no infrastructure around that site.”

Ernie Duarte, director of the city’s Development Services Department, glanced at the May 2007 Downtown Infrastructure Study that specifically details the utilities’ lines.

“The notion of lack of infrastructure is hard to accept,” Duarte said. “Looking at that document, I don’t see any issues. There’s water, power, sewer, gas. The only thing missing is storm drainage. That piece of land is really developable.”

Defends not developing parking lots
Kennedy fiercely defends not developing the parking lots. He rues the building of El Presidio de Tucson at Washington and Church on what was DDC’s second parking lot. The DDC gave up the so-called Torreon Lot to the city in 2005 in exchange for an equal lot at Council Street and Stone Avenue.

“The parking lot has a huge economic impact on downtown,” Kennedy said. “I think it was a mistake to get rid of the Torreon parking lot.”

That exchange took eight years and only increased city staff resentment of Kennedy, which had been brewing through the 1990s, former City Manager Luis Gutierrez said.

By 1999, when the second-generation Rio Nuevo was put before voters, the city created its own Rio Nuevo office and did not turn to the Downtown Development Corp. Why not?

Kennedy said he would have been willing to head up the current Rio Nuevo project.

“Ask Luis Gutierrez,” Kennedy said. “There was a philosophic change. They felt everything should be done inside the city real estate department.”

Luis Gutierrez, who was city manager from 1996 to 2000 and deputy city manager before then, said even in the 1990s there was uncertainty about who was on the DDC board.

“From our perspective, as a functioning nonprofit, they were nonoperative,” Gutierrez said. “As far as we were concerned, they had little or no board members. We had no contact for years. We had no confidence they could do anything on behalf of the city.”

Kennedy sits on the Downtown Tucson Partnership’s 32-seat board of directors and 14-person executive committee. The partnership was jointly established in 2006 by the city, Pima County and the private sector with some board members from the beginning angling to formally merge the DDC into the partnership, Lyons said.

The Downtown Development Corp. has one thing the Downtown Tucson Partnership does not: it owns property.

“There’s no question there is a role for an entity like DDC,” said Steve Lynn, chairman of the partnership’s board. “I wouldn’t call it a redundancy. I’d call it an adjunct (to the downtown partnership). What we need to do is engage DDC and IDA in further conversations in how we can form much closer working relationships.”

Confusion reigns over who’s on the board of the DDC
Few downtowners interviewed for this article could name anybody on the Downtown Development Corp. board other than Doug Kennedy and Darryl Dobras, who has been the board secretary since 1995.

“I still don’t understand who is on the DDC board,” said Chuck Lotzar, an attorney representing the Industrial Development Authority, the financing arm the City Council created in 1979 to help the DDC develop downtown. “(Tucson attorney Larry) Hecker made mention he is on the board. Are you on this board or are you not? This should not be this difficult.”

Kennedy said the DDC board includes himself, Dobras, former University of Arizona Foundation President Richard Imwalle, arts philanthropist Helen Schaefer and El Presidio Neighborhood activist Christopher Carroll. He also mentioned that Hecker, Downtown Tucson Partnership chief executive Glenn Lyons and City Council member Nina Trasoff were in the process of joining.

But Hecker was uncertain of his status for a couple months until confirming he did join the board in September.

Lyons said he’s “never been formally invited.”

“And I haven’t accepted. I’m not going on any board with a financial (question),” he said.

Trasoff said, “I don’t know that I’ve been nominated or that I should be on it.”

Carroll, a longtime DDC board member in the 1980s and early 1990s, said he is not on the board.

“The way it’s run the last several years, very informally, meet for lunch, never any minutes,” Carroll said, “I went to two or three lunches over the last five years. Once with Helen Schaefer, once with Dick Imwalle. According to the (Arizona) Corporation Commission, there are only two board members, Doug and Darryl.”

Kennedy describes the next DDC board coming “some day.”

Industrial Development group has had its share of problems
The Tucson Industrial Development Authority has had its ups and downs during its 30 years.

At the same time that the Downtown Development Corp. foundered in the early 1990s, the IDA also slid off the radar.

“The general perception is the activity level was low (for IDA in 1990s),” said Gary Molenda, president of the Business Development Finance Corp., which serves as the administrative adviser to the IDA.

The IDA was reactivated in 1998 when the City Council installed a new board of directors headed by Jaime Gutierrez, who remains the IDA’s president today.

Since then, the IDA has assisted more than 1,000 first-time homebuyers by providing down payment funds with more than $187 million in mortgage revenue bond financing that homebuyers eventually repay. There are income limits of about $60,000 and maximum home price limits of about $285,000.

Along with down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, the IDA in the past 10 years issued $26 million in mortgage credit assistance that gave 243 first-time homebuyers a 20 percent federal tax credit.

The Tucson IDA has also issued more than $563 million in tax-exempt and taxable bonds for 18 projects, including 2,900 affordable housing units, nonprofits or manufacturers that create jobs.

IDA is a nonprofit that provides affordable financing for qualified projects that meet federal tax guidelines that benefit the broader community, Molenda said. It is a political subdivision of the state that is overseen by the City Council, which oversees every transaction, he said.

The IDA’s goals revolve around four goals: economic development, affordable housing, downtown neighborhood and community development; and sustaining sound investment.

Molenda said IDA bonds have no taxpayer obligation and are funded by the private sector credit market.

El Presidio took 21 years to build

TEYA VITU

tvitu@tucsoncitizen.com

The Downtown Development Corporation and Tucson Industrial Development Authority bought the Lot 175 property at Franklin Street and Court Avenue in November 1985 in a limited partnership giving the DDC sole control of the property and the IDA 49 percent of the parking lot revenue.

The same limited partnership arrangement came into play when the DDC and IDA bought the Torreon Lot at Washington Street and Church Avenue in December 1986.

That’s what the DDC did in its early history: buy downtown property and package it to sell for downtown redevelopment projects.

Lot 175 was bought for $1.2 million from Baldwin and Sheila Young of San Francisco with the hope to develop the land with retail, restaurant, offices and possibly housing “if it can be done economically,” then-DDC Executive Director Bill Mosher said at the time.

The sale generated only small articles in the Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star. That was the extent of media attention to possible development of Lot 175, which has remained a parking lot since 1985.

A year later, the DDC and IDA bought the Torreon property at Washington and Church from Joseph Bonanno Sr. for $400,000. The DDC already owned much of that block bounded by Washington Street, Court Avenue, Alameda Street and Church Avenue.

Mosher envisioned building a 12-story office building with an archaeological hall on the ground floor to give public access to an active archaeological site. Public ownership was sought for that property since archaeologists first found Hohokam artifacts in 1954. A similar concept is in place at Pointe-à-Callière in Montreal, where the exact location where the city was founded is an archaeological site with a building standing over it.

“It has taken 30 years for the community to buy it, and it could take 30 years to develop,” Mosher uncannily predicted at the time.

The El Presidio de Tucson was built on that lot and opened in 2007 – 21 years later – after the city swapped with DDC for another parking lot two blocks to the northeast at Stone Avenue and Council Street.

Those two patches of simple asphalt brought 20-plus years of animosity and contention between the DDC and, variously, its partner the IDA, City Hall and a collection of downtown private sector leaders.

Mosher worked for a few years toward building a 10- to 12-story office on the Torreon property. In October 1987, he asked the city zoning examiner to approve the concept, but Mosher never could find a developer willing to leave the ground floor open for archaeology, a concept that reportedly added upward of $1 million to develop the site.

Mosher won council approval in November 1987 to remove the Torreon lot from the El Presidio Historic District, but the property was returned to the historic district in November 1995 after nothing was built for eight years.

The following year, Luis Gutierrez became city manager and in 1997 broached the idea to trade for the Torreon lot to allow reconstruction of one corner of the 18th-century Spanish presidio that stood on that spot.

“I said, ‘Doug, it’s time to do some business,’ ” Gutierrez said recently. “There became a distrust on the part of staff with respect to (DDC’s) Doug (Kennedy). Staff said ‘We think he’s going to damage archaeological resources.’ ”

The city and Kennedy indeed reached an agreement in 1997 to swap lots, but it was not carried out until 2005, and soon thereafter the El Presidio de Tucson reconstruction was built on the Torreon Lot.

TIMELINE

Jan. 15, 1979: The City Council established the Downtown Development Corp. as a private nonprofit with an operating agreement with the city. At this time downtown revitalization already was described as a “perpetual task.”

Jan. 16, 1979: Announcement of La Entrada 400-unit apartment and townhome development on Granada Avenue north of Alameda Street. 120 apartments and 15 townhomes were built in the 1980s and 66 were added in 2004.

Aug. 10, 1979: The City Council earmarked $900,000 in federal Community Development Brock Grant funding and borrowing an additional $8 million to buy land just west of the Santa Cruz River that would be called Rio Nuevo North between Congress Street and St. Mary’s Road and Rio Nuevo South south of Congress Street. The DDC was responsible for developing this land.

March 1980: Financing through a $7.9 million advance on future CDBG grants.

April 1980: Jácome’s department store has its going out of business sale.

Sept. 2, 1980: A Citizen article noted that no other downtown project had materialized except La Placita Village and “it has been likened to an oversized Edsel.” That article describes a Pueblo West housing project with 110 homes at 1335 W. St. Mary’s Road, between Grande Avenue and Silverbell Road, as well as a $450 million Arroyo Group Plan for four 20-story buildings, a nine-block project bounded by Church Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Broadway and Alameda Street with a 400-room hotel, parking garages, 500 homes and “possible rebirth of the trolley system” to UA.

Oct. 21, 1980: 80 Pueblo West homes announced by U.S. Home.

Oct. 24, 1980: $2.1 million in public funds spent so far with 115 acres of land bought or under option on the West Side.

Nov. 5, 1980: Phil Whitmore, DDC’s first executive director, resigned.

Nov. 21, 1980: The city-owned Levi Manning Mansion (today’s Manning House, then known as Elk’s Lodge) handed over to DDC to sell. Palace Dinner Theater wanted to buy it, city urged DDC to sell it. DDC held on to it and 2 1/2 years later moved its office into the Manning House.

May 15, 1981: Plan to build two office buildings on Westmoreland near St. Mary’s, also 76 homes at Pueblo West.

June 2, 1981: Bill Mosher named DDC’s second executive director.

Aug. 13, 1981: Rio Nuevo reduced from 1,400 to 1,600 homes to 1,100 to 1,200 homes because a known landfill at Rio Nuevo South was determined to be much larger than had been known. That landfill also added years to any progress in the early 2000s with the reconfigured 1999 Rio Nuevo. Also, a warning that the 1979 Rio Nuevo could be slowed by the economy and lawsuits demanding that money should be used for low-income housing.

Oct. 16, 1981: La Entrada reduced to 350 homes.

Dec. 31, 1981: An article noted that nothing happened with downtown revitalization while Tucson Mall and Williams Centre were built elsewhere.

1982: JCPenney is the last department store to leave downtown.

Summer 1982: The $4.8 million flood control work to put the Santa Cruz River in a channel takes place. It was controversial at the time of DDC establishment three years earlier. The channelization was regarded as a key event to allow West Side development.

Aug. 27, 1982: Duraps Inc. of Winnipeg, Manitoba, picked as the La Entrada developer.

December 1982: The City Council voted to build the Tucson Water building in La Entrada.

May 13, 1983: Ground broken on a 210-unit complex at Bonita Avenue and St. Mary’s.

June 28, 1983: DDC moves its offices into the Manning House.

July 18, 1983: Groundbreaking for 10 homes in Alameda subdivision on Alameda Street just west of the Santa Cruz River.

Feb. 21, 1984: Pueblo West had 84 percent of its 235 homes complete or under construction. DDC had funded Santa Cruz River Park. DDC had assembled 17 acres and a master plan for La Entrada on both sides of Granada.

Sept. 13, 1984: Construction was under way on La Entrada with 120 apartments in 10 buildings northeast of the Manning House. This would be the extent of what was originally envisioned as a 400-unit complex until 66 apartments were added in 2004.

April 18, 1985: Pueblo West is the first DDC project to sell out.

Sept. 27, 1985: To date, DDC was responsible for 210 apartments, 10 patio homes and a Furr’s Cafeteria in Rio Nuevo North. Dr. Martin List of Colorado Springs optioned 90 acres along Bonita Avenue, where Pima Community College and the city Community Services Department sit today.

Oct. 11, 1985: The DDC and IDA bought Lot 175 from Baldwin and Sheila Young of San Francisco for $1.2 million. The intention was to resell it for mixed-use development with retail, restaurant, offices, possibly housing “if it can be done economically.” Mosher said the resale could take five years. Twenty-three year later, the DDC still owns this property across from El Charro Café.

Dec. 13, 1985: DDC requested $250,000 from the Tucson Industrial Development Authority to buy an odd chunk of land touching on Council, Church and Alameda with the intention to build a 250-space garage that could be expanded to 750 spaces. This was the starting point of the second parking lot property DDC still owns, though DDC swapped out of this block in 2005.

June 19, 1986: DDC and IDA buy Glenwood Hotel, 343 S. Scott Ave., for $225,000, contingent on the city acquiring the mothballed Temple of Music and Art across the street. The DDC later sold the Glenwood to Arizona Theatre Company, which has its offices there.

Nov. 11, 1986: DDC celebrates the start of construction of the 1,000th residential unit since 1980 with the Granada Patio Apartments. That article gave a roundup of homes built: 10 houses at Alameda and Church; Granada Place, 5 of 15 homes done at Alameda and Granada; Pueblo West, 150 homes built since 1977, 75 of them in 1985; Rio Nuevo, 276 studio and one-bedroom apartments built at 410 N. Grande, the northwest corner of the 1979 Rio Nuevo; River Crest, 1001 W. St. Mary’s, built in 1984; Santa Maria Square, 1351 W. St. Mary’s, 56 apartments built in 1983; Tamarack Apartments, 1111 W. St. Mary’s, 144 apartments built in 1984.

Dec. 31, 1986: DDC and IDA buy Torreon Lot from Joseph Bonanno Sr. for $400,000. DDC already owned most of the block bounded by Council, Church, Alameda and Washington. This was the northeast corner, where today stands the reconstructed El Presidio de Tucson. At that time, Mosher envisioned building a 12-story office building on that block with the innovative notion of creating an archaeological hall on the ground floor. That would leave the archeological site on that block visible to the public. See Oct. 6, 1987. DDC in 2005 swapped the Torreon Lot for a similar parking lot at Stone Avenue and Council Street that the DDC still owns.

Feb. 24, 1987: A proposal for Rio Nuevo South, south of Congress Street and west of the Santa Cruz River, called for 280 apartments, a 300-room hotel and 300,000 square feet of commercial space on 45 acres. Nothing ever came of this proposal. Only in the past three years have 20 homes risen on that land in the Mercado District of Menlo Park. The same family behind Mercado District now has a development agreement with the city to build a similar development as described in 1987 just east of Mercado District.

Oct. 6, 1987: The DDC asked the zoning examiner to approve the 10-to-12-story office for the Torreon Lot, and on Nov. 24, 1987, the City Council approved removing the Torreon Lot from the El Presidio Historic District. Mosher looked for a developer willing to build around the archaeological site. Nothing ever happened with this project and on Jan. 15, 1996, the lot reverted into the El Presidio Historic District and in May 2007 the reconstructed El Presidio de Tucson opened at that site.

Nov. 4, 1987: The first DDC land sales along Bonita Avenue and Commerce Park Loop, south of St. Mary’s Road. Cella Barr Associates bought 5 acres along Bonita, and Arizona Lithographers bought 80,000 square feet. Stantec eventually acquired the Cella Barr land and Stantec still has its offices there, and Arizona Lithographers remains there. Two weeks later, Phoenix Village restaurant and Hollis Photo Technics (today Hollis Graphics) also bought lots there. Later, that area also came to houses the city Community Services Department and Pima Community College’s Community Campus.

June 18, 1987: The DDC announced a 20-year conceptual plan to eliminate parking and widen sidewalks on Broadway, Congress Street, Scott Avenue and Pennington Street; to run a trolley from the University of Arizona via Fourth Avenue to downtown; build light rail to Tucson Mall and on Broadway out of downtown; combine the Greyhound and Amtrak stations.

Oct. 20, 1989: The Odd Fellows Hall at the southeast corner of Broadway and Sixth Avenue proposed a mercado but that never happened.

Dec. 30, 1989: The DDC bought the dilapidated Coronado Hotel, 410 E. Ninth St., for $150,000. The building, empty since 1974, is one of three properties the DDC still owns along with the parking lots at Lot 175 and Stone Avenue/Council Street. It was rehabilitated as low-income housing.

Dec. 31, 1990: Mosher resigned as executive director of the Downtown Development Corp. after nine years. He moved to Denver.

May 24, 1991: Cathy McCoskey was named the third DDC executive director and ultimately the last. She started at the DDC in 1983 as a part-time bookkeeper and later was the project director.

Aug. 3, 1991: Reywest Development Corp. of Richmond, Va., proposes building a $20 million, 10,000 seat baseball stadium south of Congress Street on Rio Nuevo South land.

Aug. 20, 1991: Baseball stadium strikes out. Cathy McCoskey said the proposal was misunderstood by city and county officials. County and Reywest officials were “miffed” that McCoskey had announced the project in a press conference on Aug. 3.

Dec. 19, 1991: The same Rio Nuevo South land is eyed by Old Tucson Studios founder Robert Shelton (not the University of Arizona president, Robert N. Shelton) to build Colonial Tucson, an attraction with a museum, tequila factory, Indian cultural center, shops, a hotel and re-creation of a Spanish fortress. Shelton considered the site since 1980. Talks fell apart Aug. 3, 1992 when DDC wanted $3 million for the land and Shelton offered $1.5 million.

March 2, 1993: The City Council agrees to bail out a nearly bankruptcy DDC by assuming a $1.25 million loan with Valley National Bank for the 115-acre Rio Nuevo property. This is the before-and-after episode that splits the history of the Downtown Development Corp. in half. Other than the Lohse YMCA building mentioned below, the post bail-out era revolved almost entirely around operating the Lot 175 and Torreon parking lots.

Dec. 4, 1993: The DDC bought the former L.A. Lohse Memorial YMCA building, 516 N. Fifth Ave., for a “token price” of $100,000 on behalf of the Tucson Youth Center. The DDC sold the building in 1997 to Enseeko LLC for $250,000. It became an international arts center that in 2001 took on the name MUSE. The building was demolished in 2006.

July 1994: Cathy McCoskey resigned as executive director of the DDC. No replacement was ever named.

Aug. 15, 1995: Doug Kennedy and Darryl Dobras register at the Arizona Corporation Commission as president and secretary of the Downtown Development Corp. Their status remains the same today.

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