Our Opinion: Innovation might save downtown warehousesby Tucson Citizen on Sep. 24, 2008, under Opinion
Warehouses that have provided studio and exhibit space for artists on the eastern fringe of downtown appear closer to winning a new life.
That is welcome news for those concerned about rejuvenating downtown Tucson.
In an editorial in this space more than 18 months ago, we wrote that it would take innovative and creative thinking to save the warehouses from collapse or from the wrecking ball.
That apparently has happened, and the city and state Transportation departments deserve credit for working out the difficult details.
The state owns 29 warehouses along the railroad tracks, generally along Toole Avenue. They were bought to be demolished for extension of the Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10.
But that plan was shelved and the parkway was routed farther north, saving the warehouses, where artists and museums had set up shop, forming a community that has brought a unique flavor to that downtown area.
It was to everyone’s benefit that the historic warehouses and the tenants remain. The century-old structures are not in prime condition, however, and some need extensive repair and renovation work. Liability worries led the state to threaten to evict the tenants.
That’s when the needed innovative and creative thinking kicked in.
The city plans to swap unneeded vacant land it owns to the state. In return, the state will turn over the warehouses to the city.
It’s far from a done deal. The city must find land that the state Department of Transportation can use. And the land has to have a value equal to that of the warehouse property.
But the concept is sound, and it should work – at least in theory.
Once the city gains ownership, it intends to sell the warehouses to the artists who have rented spaces from the state – some as long as 20 years – and let the new owners make repairs.
A loosely knit community of artists and others has turned unwanted, vacant buildings into vibrant gathering places. It is an important part of the revival of downtown Tucson, and the warehouse community plays into Rio Nuevo plans to bring more arts and culture of all types into the area.
There will be a time when we or those who come after us will be glad those warehouses were saved. Good for the city and the state in cooperating to get it done.