Every great city offers world-class museums for residents and visitors, and Tucson is poised to make downtown’s West Side a mecca, with the largest Smithsonian-type complex west of Washington, D.C.
The decisions we make today will frame our history, culture and prosperity for the future.
At build-out on the West Side, we’re going to see nearly $1 billion of reinvestment.
That will come not only in the University of Arizona Science Center, Arizona State Museum, Arizona Historical Museum and Children’s Museum, but also in a range of housing choices, neighborhood-oriented retail, office and commercial buildings, a cultural plaza, the Origins Heritage Park, and infrastructure such as underground parking, streetscapes, roads and a new bridge over the Santa Cruz River.
There have been recent reports about policy shifts in regards to West Side projects.
Let me be clear: This mayor and council’s commitment to the West Side has not wavered, and it will not waver on our watch.
In fact, we expect construction to commence immediately on elements of Tucson Origins Heritage Park.
At issue here is not just our heritage park; at issue is the economic development of more than 50 acres of prime downtown real estate.
We must remain resolute on commitments already made to the community, but we also must provide the underlying investment necessary to create social and economic opportunities.
A case in point is the $100 million Mercado District under construction and the Gadsden Co.’s proposal for an adjacent 14 acres of urban infill, which would bring approximately 1 million square feet of high-density, mixed-use development to the area.
With a total estimated construction cost of $285 million, Gadsden’s plan would provide about $15 million from construction sales tax and $2.1 million in annual sales tax, thus generating both short- and long-term revenue within the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district.
The city clearly cannot and should not develop downtown, east or west, without institutional and private partnerships and their necessary capital investments.
There must be a critical path to the sequencing of construction, a master schedule with which everything gets done on time and in order.
As a city, we must do all we can to be a reliable partner with timely delivery of our public infrastructure projects.
Firm financial commitments by the city instill confidence in institutional and private partners and the public. They are also necessary to advance our revitalization efforts.
Therefore, the mayor and City Council authorized $41.4 million in funding to commence with construction of the Tucson Origins Heritage Park, the ring road, underground parking, Cushing Street extension and cultural plaza in a timely and logically sequenced manner.
In May 2007, the mayor and council established a long-range funding allocation plan with contingent commitments of $190 million to various museum partners and $170 million for infrastructure, streetscape and parking facilities for east and west.
This was the beginning in a series of authorizations that will require the mayor and council’s approval.
We recently gave the approval to proceed with construction of a new Santa Cruz River bridge.
Now the time has come to show the community and our public and private partners that we are serious.
We need to have a master construction schedule and financial plan in place to move forward.
With your support, we can spur economic development and create a downtown with a heart, a downtown for us all.
Regina Romero is the Tucson City Council representative for Ward 1.