Rio Nuevo, warehouse arts area issues on new city manager’s to-do listby Teya Vitu on Apr. 28, 2009, under Local
New City Manager Mike Letcher was out of the loop with Rio Nuevo during the Mike Hein era, even though Letcher’s office shared a wall with the city manager’s for nearly the full life of Rio Nuevo.
So Letcher did not offer any grand announcement about Rio Nuevo to start his tenure as the city’s top bureaucrat.
Hein had personally taken charge of Rio Nuevo and did not keep his deputy apprised of project details.
“I was not involved in Rio Nuevo,” Letcher said of his eight-year stint as deputy city manager. “I was involved in internal operations management. What I’m doing is making sure I know what’s going on.”
Letcher answered all Rio Nuevo questions with a prepared statement he submitted for a Tucson Citizen interview
“The mayor and council are taking great steps to get Rio Nuevo aligned with expectations of the state legislature,” Letcher wrote. “We are doing all the right things to ensure that Rio Nuevo will continue to improve our downtown.”
When asked specific questions in a brief interview, Letcher responded: “I’ll stand on the previous statement.”
“At this point in time, (Assistant City Manager) Richard Miranda and I are just getting up to speed on all the projects and progress,” he said.
As deputy city manager, Letcher was directly involved in negotiations with the Arizona Department of Transportation to acquire the state-owned warehouses along Toole Avenue. Several are occupied by artists with month-to-month leases, and Letcher’s intention is to acquire them for the Warehouse Arts Management Organization.
During 2008, the city was trying to arrange a land swap by giving the state three city-owned properties in exchange for about two dozen warehouses, but that swap fell through, Letcher said.
“We have another (property) that ADOT wants that’s gaining traction,” Letcher said. “There is a gap between what the value of the warehouses is and the property ADOT wants to secure from us.”