So the giant convention hotel in downtown Tucson has bitten the dust.
So….what’s next in the endless and expensive efforts to “save” downtown Tucson?
Maybe the first question to ask is does Tucson even really need a “downtown”?
The place folks call “downtown” Tucson is mostly a cluster of government buildings. It is a “government center”. The only reason most people have to go to that part of Tucson is to deal with (or be abused by) government.
Most downtowns are big office centers for private enterprises. Tucson has relatively few businesses big enough and rich enough to want to spend big bucks on fancy offices in high rise buildings. That speaks volumes about the failure of Tucson to actually have much of an economy.
There are lots of law offices in downtown….because the lawyers need to be close to the government offices and the courts.
Maybe the city government could spur more private office building construction by creating even more government mischief creating more lawyer jobs.
Oops…in this era of trying to shrink government, the prospect of inducing more private office construction to house more lawyers is a seriously bad idea.
Many downtowns serve as financial centers with lots of bank buildings and offices. Does anyone believe Tucson would ever have a financial center downtown?
Another characteristic of other downtowns is the function of an arts and entertainment center. Interestingly a vibrant art community emerged adjacent to downtown in all the old warehouses that were going to be torn down for a freeway extension. The emergence of the arts district was due to the failure of government to be able to proceed with the road project. If government has its way all the artists will get pushed out and replaced by expensive condo projects so people can live in an “arts district” which happens to have no artists.
The idea of a bunch of museums and stuff downtown was a cool idea….but somehow got lost in the mad dreams of rainbow bridges and aquariums.
Somehow the hotel scheme got linked to saving the Gem and Mineral Show. No doubt Tucson needs more hotel rooms to accommodate all the folks that come to that show….but why does the taxpayer have to be on the hook for a hotel for this? If there are enough people wanting to rent hotel rooms, someone will get the money to build a hotel. The problem is that a hotel needs guests for a lot more nights than just the few weeks of the gem show. There needs to be a reason for people wanting to rent hotel rooms all year….and Tucson does not have the attractions to justify more rooms. I still think giving the site to an Indian Tribe for a hotel casino complex is the only way to go if they want a hotel downtown without taxpayer subsidies.
This keeps coming back to the question…why does Tucson need a downtown? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the best thing that can happen is for the city government to quit spending taxpayer money trying to create a city center in a place that clearly doesn’t want or even need a city center.