Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Restoration of downtown Walgreens facade could begin Friday

Facade work to restore the original 1929 look of the downtown Walgreens building at 44 N. Stone Ave. could begin as early as Friday, a county official said.

Durazo Construction will erect scaffolding and pedestrian tunnels before peeling off the 1956 skin, said Reid Spaulding, director of the county’s Facilities Management Department.

“This is not a demolition,” Spaulding said. “It is a deconstruction. Durazo will deconstruct the corner of the building (at Stone Avenue and Pennington Street), the tower part of the building.”

The county owns the Walgreens building, which it acquired in 1987 along with the neighboring Legal Services Building, the 20-story blue tower that is Tucson’s third-tallest building. Spaulding said the facade work will help get the Walgreens building ready to sell to the private sector.

The tower facade deconstruction is the first of a six-phase, $780,000 project funded with 2004 county bond money. The Durazo contract for $103,702 covers the first phase only, Spaulding said.

Durazo has 90 days to remove the 1956 moderne false facade, but Spaulding said Durazo’s work may be done by 60 days.

Future contracts will restore the tower facade and reconstruct other facades along Stone and Pennington.

Many downtown buildings have 1910s and 1920s facades hidden behind 1940s and 1950s coverings. How intact the original facades are varies from building to building.

“Our pessimism exceeds our optimism,” Spaulding said.

Initial peeks under the Walgreens skin revealed heavy damage to the 1929 facade, Spaulding said. That will make creating new Spanish colonial elements challenging.

The building originally housed Montgomery Ward. Walgreens occupied it from 1956 until moving out in 2003. It has stood empty since then.

Another downtown facade project is under way at 64 E. Broadway, the recent home of Southern Arizona Legal Aid. It is the first project among the four downtown buildings chosen for the city’s $500,000 facade improvement program.

Architect Robert Bailey is using $125,000 in city funding to remove a 1984 facade to reveal and restore two separate facades from 1909 and 1919.

Work started a month ago and restoration should be done in the summer, general partner Ron Schwabe said.

The other projects in the city program are Wig-O-Rama, 98-110 E. Congress St.; the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.; and the Rialto Block, 300-320 E. Congress St.

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