As the leaders in Tucson continue to run in circles around the major issues like baseball, downtown redevelopment, convention centers, gem shows and the like there is a larger drumbeat going that says write off the City of Tucson and focus on areas and other assets that are easier to work with. Marana has the land and the forward thinking, Oro Valley has the tech focus, great schools and high end neighborhoods. Even Sahuarita is cultivating a family friendly community that is planning beyond the bedroom community lable it has today. Should we put a virtual fence around the City of Tucson and focus on municipalities the get with the program?
Plans are percalating as we speak for baseball and much much more. These plans are being discussed and thought through by communities other than Tucson. Here’s a concept for amature and pro baseball the Musuem of Art and BioTech clusters;
A 600-acre parcel now dominated by two gravel pits is the proposed site for a mixed-use development that would include a new baseball complex for spring training.
(photo: Jim Davis / Arizona Daily Star)
Site of 2 gravel pits in Marana area proposed for spring-training complex
Development could have 2-team stadium, 16-field practice facility, hotel, golf course
By Brian J. Pedersen
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
The impending departure of the Chicago White Sox has left spring training baseball in Tucson in a hole. But a local developer is proposing to use an actual hole in the ground to stop the major-league migration out of town by building a new baseball complex on the Northwest Side. A 600-acre parcel west of Interstate 10, between Orange Grove and Sunset roads — now dominated by two gravel pits — could be the perfect spot for a mixed-use development that would include a two-team baseball stadium and a 16-field practice facility, developer David Graham said he believes. The development would also include a resort hotel and an 18-hole golf course built into a pit that is still being mined by property owner CPC Southwest Materials Inc.
Local officials and community leaders would like to recruit more teams to Tucson, but their efforts have been hampered by the lack of facilities. “I’m a great believer in turning something ugly into something beautiful,” said Graham, who is operating under the name of Orange Sunset Management LLC. “Both of those pits are not the nicest things to look at. The owners would like to do something with those two holes in the ground. ” Graham, who was the creative force behind converting a former gravel pit at Continental Ranch into what is now the Pines Golf Club at Marana, said building baseball fields in a 20-foot-deep pit will allow the slopes of the pit to be incorporated into the design as natural viewing areas for spectators.
The site is on land currently within Marana, unincorporated Pima County and Tucson, going from north to south respectively. Graham said he believes this is a plus for the project because it would require all three entities to be involved in the planning. “This is a regional problem that requires a regional solution,” said Graham, noting he has had informal discussions with officials from each government. “All three jurisdictions are aware of this project at varying levels,” he said.
A regional effort to keep spring-training baseball alive in Southern Arizona has been under way since November 2006, when the White Sox announced they were breaking their lease at Tucson Electric Park to move into a new two-team complex in Glendale in 2009 or 2010. In April, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority. The group, made up of local business and community leaders, has been looking for ways to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies from following the White Sox out of town, in addition to seeking additional major-league teams to train here. That group is trying to get the state Legislature to pass a bill authorizing a county election on a sales tax to fund renovations to TEP and Hi Corbett Field and for the construction of new facilities.
A bill was introduced late in the last legislative session but was not brought up for a vote. The gravel pit location is the second potential stadium site proposed by private developers. The first, identified in March, was suggested for northwest of the I-10/Tangerine Road interchange on land owned by Colorado-based MSP Properties, though owner Marcus Palkowitsch said no formal plans for a stadium exist. “We haven’t put any pen to paper,” Palkowitsch said. Although both proposed sites fall either partially or entirely within Marana, that doesn’t mean Marana is the only place with options for a new stadium, Sports and Tourism Authority Chairman Tom Tracy said. It just means private landowners in that area have been the first to come forward with ideas.
“At some point, after our funding is in place, we’re going to reach out to any and all people who would like to make a proposal,” said Tracy, who spoke to the Marana Town Council Tuesday night during a special meeting to discuss spring training. “We are excited that Marana wants to be a part of the solution.” Marana’s extensive freeway frontage, much of which is still undeveloped, makes the town an ideal spot for a baseball complex, Marana Mayor Ed Honea said. “It’s really about location,” Honea said. “Spring training teams like the idea of being on I-10. You can drive from Tempe to Tangerine Road in an hour and 15 minutes.” The Orange Grove/Sunset project could be done as early as 2011, Graham said, assuming all agreements needed for the development were in place by the end of this year or early in 2009.That includes getting the Regional Transportation Authority to move up its timetable for extending Sunset west from I-10 to Silverbell Road and building a bridge over the Santa Cruz River. That project is currently slated to begin no earlier than 2017.
Graham’s development would also likely require bank protection work to be done on parts of the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers and the Cañada del Oro Wash, all of which run through the property. Graham said no formal talks have occurred on that subject. “That’s one of the items on the list,” he said. The county is aware of the gravel pit idea, but no formal presentation has been made to county officials, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said. Huckelberry said he doesn’t know whether the project is a viable option. “Anything is possible,” Huckelberry said. “I just view it as another development proposal right now.” City of Tucson officials did not return calls made by the Star for comment.
Oro Valley courts Tucson Museum of Art
By Lourdes Medrano
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Oro Valley officials are working on an incentive package that might entice the Tucson Museum of Art to expand to the town. “We’ve identified six sites, some public, some private,” said Town Manager David Andrews, who declined to divulge the locations. “We just need to look at the feasibility of those and determine what the museum of art’s level of interest might be.” On Friday, Mayor Paul Loomis, Andrews, other town officials and area business leaders met with Robert Knight, the museum’s executive director. Knight plans to make a formal presentation to the Town Council at its Sept. 3 regular meeting, said Oro Valley spokeswoman Mary Davis.
Museum officials also have visited Marana, but the town does not have a proposal in the works, said spokesman Rodney Campbell. Although it’s premature to talk about specific plans to attract the museum, Andrews said, one option may be for the town to provide land to the museum while the private sector makes its own contribution. “It could be that the private sector might want to put together some funding and then buy a private parcel,” he said. The museum would be a great community entity and a boost to preservation arts projects such as Steam Pump Ranch, he said. The private sector would benefit, he said, because the more amenities a community has, the greater its chances of recruiting and retaining employees.
Knight was traveling and could not be reached to comment. But museum spokeswoman Meredith Hayes said Oro Valley is one of several sites museum officials are considering. The museum has outgrown its Downtown location, where parking and directional signs have been long-standing concerns, Hayes said. “What we’ve been doing is looking at expansion opportunities,” she said. “We’ve got opportunities with a number of major collections that could be given to the museum, and we need space to display those.”
Hayes said that in May the museum’s board of trustees directed Knight to continue working with the city to resolve some of the issues affecting the Downtown location, as well as look toward long-term expansion. “There could be even a satellite location out there,” she said of expanding to the Northwest Side. No immediate decisions are expected in September, when Knight reports his findings to the board, she said. “We’ve got so many options on the table that it behooves us to really look at each one of those options and find out what is best for the museum and for the community as a whole,” Hayes said.
Biotech flourishes in Oro Valley
Led by Ventana Medical, firms create industry cluster
Sept. 2nd 2008
A key goal among Phoenix bioscience interests is to create a cluster of research companies that offer high-wage jobs and discover important breakthroughs.
That idea is that a critical mass of companies located near one another would draw batches of smart, talented workers who seek out those employers for challenging and lucrative careers. Such an achievement would spur the type of wealth and innovation that could drive the region’s economy.
But some biotech observers believe such a cluster may be emerging in Arizona, just 90 miles south of the Valley in the growing southern Arizona bedroom community of Oro Valley.
The freshest evidence of that is Ventana Medical Systems’ recent purchase of a 17-acre site next to its existing campus. About six months after Swiss drug giant Roche plunked down $3.4 billion to purchase Ventana, the company acquired a large chunk with an eye toward a major expansion of its tissue-diagnostics business.
Ventana isn’t the only company that has planted its biotech roots in the Tucson suburb. French drugmaker sanofi-aventis is building a new research lab in the same technology park where Ventana is headquartered, and the small-but-growing tech firm Integrated Biomolecule Corp. also is expanding its work force.
All companies have ties to the University of Arizona, and all the companies have big growth plans.
“This is a good model of what you want to happen in Phoenix and Flagstaff,” Walt Plosila, a senior adviser to Ohio-based Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, said of the emerging Oro Valley cluster.
Science Foundation Arizona President and Chief Executive Officer William Harris also has taken note. The foundation’s charge is to improve the state’s science and technology initiatives through strategic investments in companies and education.
“It shows how you can diversify the economy,” Harris said.
Similar efforts are under way to foster such bioscience growth in the Phoenix area.
The state of Arizona and city of Phoenix has invested tens of millions on a downtown biomedical hub anchored by the Translational Genomics Research Institute and a new medical school. And Arizona State University’s five-year-old Biodesign Institute is beginning to churn out companies in research areas as alternative energy.
But Plosila and others believe that the Phoenix-area’s growing biotech scene has not reached a critical mass of private bioscience companies yet that rivals such clusters as San Diego, San Francisco or Boston.
Phoenix and Flagstaff have made some biotech niches, particularly in medical-device manufacturing. The keys to attracting more research jobs and company clusters are sustained, targeted investment to nurture good ideas and attract private capital.
“It is sort of the entrepreneurial hotbed of Arizona in terms of research and development,” Plosila said of Oro Valley.
University of Arizona roots
Ventana, in particular, shows the potential for one idea to have a major impact on the community, Harris said.
Dr. Thomas Grogan, a UA pathology professor, started the company in the mid-1980s over his frustration with the accuracy of cancer tests. He developed his own testing methods, arranged findings and built a company that went public in 1996 until its purchase by Roche this year.
“It’s the genius of one person who created an idea that has been purchased by Roche and has created a lot of wealth,” Harris said.
Today, Ventana employs about 900. About 600 research and development, executive, administrative and manufacturing positions are at the company’s headquarters, and the company has 165 positions it plans to fill, spokeswoman Alana Bolton said.
The company has not laid out detailed plans for its expansion other than to say Roche’s global business and international ties are expected to generate more jobs in Oro Valley.
“We will be the hub and center for tissue-based diagnostics for cancer,” Bolton said. “We will grow and get bigger.”
Among the major pharmaceutical companies, Roche has been the most aggressive in pursuing the personalized drugs based on a person’s genetic makeup.
“The reason why Roche bought Ventana is because they recognize personalized medicine will only come from having the expertise that Ventana has,” said Ray Woosley, president and chief executive officer of the Tucson-based Critical Path Institute, a non-profit group that works with federal regulators and biotech companies to speed the approval process for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
On the heels of its Ventana acquisition, Roche is seeking to further bolster its biotech business with an attempt to purchase South San Francisco-based Genentech. Genentech has rebuffed Roche’s initial offer of $89 per share but has appointed a special committee that will consider subsequent offers.
Roche largely plans to keep Ventana’s operations and culture in tact. One sign of that is that Ventana CEO Christopher Gleeson has retained his position. Bolton declined to say how many people left the company after the merger.
Sanofi-aventis is another pharmaceutical company that is investing millions in Oro Valley. The drugmaker is building a $60 million research lab slated to open in June. The company now employs 60 chemists, biologists and other staff. The new facility has the capacity for 108 workers, but the company has no firm timeline on when those positions will be filled, spokeswoman Janet Metz said.
Sanofi-aventis has recruited scientists from UA as well as attracted talent from out of state. “They (Oro Valley) seem to be building the new biotech hub, and that’s where we wanted to be,” Metz said.
Robert Green has seen the growth of Oro Valley’s biotech sector since relocating his company to the town in 2004. His company, Integrated Biomolecule Corp., provides services such as analytical testing and product development for pharmaceutical companies.
“It was a town that clearly said they would like us to be here and like us to help build a biotech cluster,” said Green, who founded the company in his garage and later worked from UA’s science and technology park before locating to Oro Valley.
He said Oro Valley has a wide range of housing prices and quality schools, two factors that help draw employees.
“For years, we were an outpost in Oro Valley with clients out of state,” Green said. “Now that is switching. We have a lot of support with companies in the state. All of this clustering activity contributes to that.”
Representatives of the region’s main economic development group, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, said years of investment in UA is beginning to pay off for southern Arizona.
TREO counts more 100 biotech companies employing more than 2,000 non-hospital workers in the Tucson-Oro valley region.
“The investment in the university system is paying huge economic dividends for us now,” said David Welsh, TREO’s senior vice president for strategic partnerships.
Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis said large employers such as Ventana benefit the town more than just economically. The company supports a half marathon and cultural groups such as the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council.
“They are the flagship of our biotech community,” Loomis said.