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Developers still sold on downtown



Even with Williams & Dame Development no longer part of the Downtown Tucson Development Co., the 20-year vision to redevelop much of the east half of downtown remains in place.

The Portland, Ore., developer recently parted ways with partners Scott Stiteler and Jim Campbell after financier Stiteler and Williams & Dame “were not able to come to agreement on our role in the company moving forward,” Williams & Dame said in a statement.

“It purely had to do with the economics of the situation,” company manager Campbell said. “Is it smart to spend spend $2 million on planning (in this economic climate)?”

Campbell said the company is pressing forward to show results on the Rialto Block, owned by Stiteler and Don Martin; the neighboring city-owned Rialto Theatre; and getting the Skrappy’s youth entitlement center into a new home as soon as next week.

“The big difference as of yesterday (Wednesday) is the discussion of planning,” Campbell said. “The focus is on sticks and bricks instead of paper. What we want to show is activity and progress.”

Williams & Dame served as the team’s planner and had completed about 90 percent of the conceptual plan due to the city by late April. This will include plans, sketches, photographs and text that describes an overall vision for the 75-acre area that includes the Warehouse Arts District up to Sixth Street and the Congress Street Entertainment District.

Stiteler, who quietly negotiated a pre-development agreement with the city, is the company’s financial arm. He also is half-owner of the Rialto Block and majority owner of the One North Fifth Apartments and three storefronts on Congress Street across from One North Fifth. Williams and Dame and Tucson-based Peach Properties remain minority owners of One North Fifth, but otherwise the Portland developer no longer has active projects in Tucson.

Williams & Dame had taken the lead in discussions with the Warehouse Arts Management Organization, which the company wanted to help renovate warehouses along Toole Avenue. Stiteler has assumed direct relations with WAMO and met with the warehouse group Thursday, Campbell said.

The company in the pre-development agreement committed to giving WAMO $2.5 million to assess and rehabilitate the two dozen state-owned warehouses that are occupied by artists. But a stall in negotiations between the state transportation department and the city to transfer ownership to the city has put WAMO on the company’s back burner.

“It makes no sense to assess the warehouses now,” Campbell said. “When ADOT got pushed off, the whole warehouse thing was put on hold.”

Campbell said WAMO has to plan for three contingencies: the city acquiring all the warehouse, some of them, or none of them.

City Councilwoman Regina Romero said the council on Tuesday will consider releasing $65,000 to WAMO to start a business management plan. The money will come from the city trust fund funded by rents warehouse tenants pay.

Romero met on Wednesday with Stiteler; Campbell; WAMO President Marvin Shaver; Jaret Barr, an assistant to the city manager; and C.T. Revere, chief of staff to Councilwoman Nina Trasoff.

“I feel much more comfortable,” Romero said. “They are still very committed to WAMO, still very committed to Skrappy’s and still very committed to the Rialto Block. They still want the arts district to flourish.”

Williams & Dame was a signatory to the pre-development agreement. Barr was not sure how that would affect the document, adding that it was a precursor to a formal development agreement that will likely be done in summer.

Downtown development still on despite partner pullout

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