By David Pittman for BizTucson
Streetcar Continues to Draw Investors, Development
Downtown Tucson continues to be a hub of activity and redevelopment as 22 new residential projects, which could bring more than 1,500 multi-family and single-family housing units, are being built or planned.
The mood among local developers, city officials, realtors and downtown boosters is absolutely buoyant – as the first new downtown hotel in 50 years is under construction, as Caterpillar promises to bring 600 jobs over the next five years to its new downtown offices, as the Tucson Convention Center Arena gets a makeover as a future entertainment and professional hockey site, and as new restaurant concepts continue to flock to Tucson’s urban core (AZBEX, June 3, 2016).
Not only are these eyewitnesses to dramatic, positive change downtown, they believe the transformation still is in its infancy and will continue for many years.
There remains a shortage of housing downtown, which has a residential occupancy rate of 97 percent. Investment dollars are flowing into downtown as developers and investors are convinced there is an unsatisfied longing among diverse groups of residents to live in and enjoy the new and exciting urban lifestyle in an area that was widely considered dormant at the beginning of this decade.
‘Enormous impact’ of streetcar
All of the new residential projects being constructed or planned downtown are next to or within easy walking distance of the Sun Link Streetcar, a $197M system that runs on a four-mile route and connects downtown to the University of Arizona, Main Gate Square, Fourth Avenue and the Mercado District west of Interstate 10.
The development team of Rob Caylor and Art Wadlund were pioneers in the residential wave that struck downtown Tucson, completing construction in late 2013 on One East Broadway, which was the first mixed-use development in the history of downtown to include parking, retail, office and residential components. The pair is now building a second project across the street at One West Broadway, which will feature 40 apartments, ground-floor retail and enclosed parking (AZBEX, March 11, 2015).
Wadlund said One East Broadway is completely filled and has never had a vacancy. He expects the same at One West Broadway.
Economic impact of close to $1B
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said total public and private investment along the streetcar line has had an economic impact of close to $1B, and there is a lot more to come.
Rothschild said there are three reasons for the downtown renaissance, which continues to show no signs of slowing down: the streetcar, government economic incentives needed to make downtown investment pencil out, and new leadership that can be counted on from the Rio Nuevo District Board.
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