Of course, saving the monastery, makes the project thematic.  That theme is either one of blending or clever contrast.  This looks like a competitive theme of old vs new; like the Benedictine Monastery surrounded by medical dorms.  The new forms are not clever, nevertheless, pleasant in and of themselves.  In any case, the shear mass that surrounds the monastery can’t help but steal the show.  Clever contrast or sensitive blending would be a bigger challenge.  The architect could start by touching the new and old at the ground plane with a friendly gesture.  By the way, when is the last time we celebrated our architectural heritage in new significant architecture?  Here is an opportunity to revere a Tucson treasure.

Plan unveiled for 7-story apartments beside Benedictine Monastery | Business News | tucson.com


Durham: Why I voted to OK new tower on Palm Shadows site | Guest opinion


What You Thought 10 Years Ago.

In January of 2010 I asked If Tucson needed a U of A / Downtown Planning Interface effort with Neighborhoods.  Since then we spent well in excess of  1.5 billion dollars.  It included a $200,000,000.00 street car, 7-10,000 luxury student beds, residential projects valued at $500,000,000.00 and hundreds of millions in commercial starts within a mile radius of Tucson’s core hotbed of development….and still counting. Unfortunately we also have seen losses in traditional family oriented home ownership in the core.  You may be interested in what you said about this ten years ago.  Do you like what you see today?  Are we creating enough opportunities for a robust home ownership bordering the university and within our great historic centers like downtown and the 4th Avenue District?   Here are some thoughts you shared in 2010; paraphrased from memory:

  • Chuck Albanese, Architect and former dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, CALA – Embraces the idea. Would like to see the architectural community involved. It is a good time for discussion
  • Gal Witmer, Architect, Member of WUNA long term university area resident and representative. She supports supports embracing these sensitive issues
  • Robert Vint, Architect, Preservationist and president of Vint Associates – Thinks it is a great idea and a good time for it.
  • Jim Mazzocco, Senior City Planner. Something like this is needed. Nothing specific addresses this issue. The City would have to manage the creation of any new plan for it to functionally work and be administered.  The City of Tucson’s budgets are too impacted to embrace a major effort.

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Here are (3) links to current  critical documents in downloadable PDF.

1) Cook Study  2)  Caywood Analysis  3)  Historical Commission’s Response

Mayor and Council will likely vote to defer approval of the 74M  30% RTA plan for further study to correct serious problems on April 19, 5:30 @ M&C chambers.  Check for meeting location.  Under desperate inside pressure, they can also vote to move forward on the flawed plan.   Check out the above links.  The plan on the table  is a downtown killer.  The RTA is pushing an “effective” 8 lane plan that disguises itself as a 6 lane context sensitive plan. The 16  bus pullouts split over both sides of the short stretch invalidate  outside lanes 5 & 6 as “bus” lanes.  So, why does the RTA want 6 traffic lanes of in & out of downtown  at the end of Broadway?  This moves more traffic to a bottleneck @ 4th Avenue  & Congress.

What about the “downtown congestion stigma”?  The west end of the Broadway Corridor is an opportunity we need to jump on, hard.  An intentional urban corridor for both cars and pedestrians can be part of the destination; a collection promenade; a narrow continuous rubber tired shuttle system to all points with 3 minute leads.  It is an obvious extension of the downtown business explosion we see before us.  We can coat tail on to this economic phenomena; making a worthy urban destination more accessible to all.  Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.33.53 AM.pngThink about the 16th St. Denver Mall and then imagine an urban concept, even greater without  compromise to the vehicular access we currently enjoy; but vastly smarter than the blinded 75M 30% plan.


Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.56.13 PMIt has been said before, that in assuring the positive outcome of good deal. You have to be able to walk. The question here, is should we walk? We didn’t do it before and we suffer the consequences over and over. Here a $74M over-design makes no sense in the face of a crippling city budget deficit. Tucson needs to walk away from what’s on the table and figure out how to keep valuable staff employed and save tax revenue.  Here is some good reasoning for walking on the deal currently on the table.  Read this clickable excellent editorial by Bob Vint in the Daily Star.  Broadway renovation plan needs a redo   This a deal that many city leaders want to walk away from but has its argument as well.  Please view Tim Steller’s point of view which is not supported by this blog:  City’s New Broadway Widening….

Here is Bob’s full text if you want to view it on this page:  Something must be done with Broadway. The main entrance to our downtown from the east is shabby, neglected and ripe for redevelopment. It should be an inviting gateway to our revitalizing city center, an extension of that vitality into the city. How best to accomplish this? Continue Reading »

Please view:   City to decide which Broadway buildings will be razed for widening

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 12.18.11 AMApril 5th could be a day in Broadway Corridor infamy.  Residents contend Mayor and Council wants to approve the Broadway Corridor 30% design plan apparently against their will.  City transportation and the RTA seem to be in neighborhood quicksand.  The upcoming vote is a key milestone for final acquisitions of historic business and residential properties slated for full or partial removal.  Local residents and neighborhood leaders see the widening as a damaging vanilla colored 6-lane widening between Eulid and Country Club.  The Broadway Coalition, a citizens group representing surrounding neighborhoods asks that you attend the crossroads event on April 5th, 5:30PM, @ Mayor & Council chambers, 255 W. Alameda.  A public plan display preceding the vote is a week earlier on March 29th, 5:30PM, 450 S. Tucson Boulevard.  More here:  Broadway Improvements

A meeting of 25 neighborhood leaders was hosted by the resident based Broadway Coalition at the Ward 6 office on March 21st.  The meeting was intended to mobilize city wide support to turn down the 30% plan, ahead of M&C’s vote.  The coalition says the Broadway needs to be done right or not at all; that the improvement wastes 76 million dollars of tax money.  It damages local businesses and historic context along the Sunshine Mile.  Please view the Broadway Coalition Website  Continue Reading »

Screen shot 2015-08-26 at 12.14.06 PMThis the latest and 4th student Infill housing project under construction at the north-west corner of the university, bringing the bed count at this location to over 2000 higher end luxury student bedroom rentals.  Construction of six-story complex to be complete by fall 2016.  The Hub-2 is the smallest and half the height of the previous 3 towers.  Please view the link in the Arizona Daily Star:  Hub high-rise getting smaller companion near UA

Peach PropertiesMuch is still planned to happen downtown.  The latest subject for development are proposals by Peach Property and The Alexander Company.  The Peach proposal shown here is modern and more attractive, but destroys the beautiful tile adorned arcade that Melody Peters did back the 80’s.  It is built from bricks that came out of the old Tucson Livery Building that Steve Leal lobbied to save back in his ponytail days.  He managed to save the bricks.  You can view both proposasl in the the links below.  The PDF’s are large so allow some time.   Peach Proposal (PDF): Peach   / Alexander Proposal (PDF):  Alexander / Daily Star Article:  Hotel, homes, stores: Developers reveal downtown Tucson proposals.

Screen shot 2015-04-12 at 9.13.47 PMGas, is $2.03 a gallon and the Broadway Corridor moves into design development with no bus lanes. The Mayor and Council appointed, Broadway Corridor Task Force (CTF), recommended 6 lanes, two of which shall be for transit.  What is wrong with this picture.  Why have a CTF?  RTA officials explain it away saying its a  misunderstanding of sorts, depending on who you talk to.  Next City provides daily online coverage of the leaders, policies and innovations driving progress in metropolitan regions across the world.  Tucson Bus Rider’s Union, Suzanne, found this article in their online publication that talks about one of Tucson’s premier arterials; the Broadway Corridor.  It puts a perspective on the topic:  Tucson and the Case of the Missing Bus Lanes – Next City.

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 12.18.11 AMSTREETSBLOG USA raps up the results of more than 2 years of debate over the stretch along Broadway from Euclid to Country Club in a poignant editorial called Pima County Holds Better Sidewalks Hostage to Get a Road Expansion.  Many should agree with the gist of this conclusion.  Broadway’s 2nd to last bottleneck settles for 6 lanes at a political and cultural cost.  The last bottleneck is the snarly entrance into downtown. Yes, we are stuck with that. Sunshine Mile RIP.  Like many important cultural attributes of Tucson heritage, what perpetuates cultural losses to new development is a lack of community design engagement.  Many things could have happened on the Sunshine Mile, but the resolve to engage was not a factor in the outcome.   Not even a 2 1/2 year task force protocol can overcome having its creative juices drained by  abasing civic duty and hidden agendas.  Read the article for a quick summary of what we have moving forward with somewhat of a blank slate.

city hallTRRG, Tucson Residents for Responsive Government, set sail in May of 2013 to focus entirely on process in Tucson from the perspective of the people who live here.  It is a grassroots organization that responded to years of failed process.  A big part of TRRG’s philosophy is to doggedly remain focused process building between residents and their government.  That notion promises success as TRRG looks to be a powerful influence in elevating dialogue between our government and those it serves.  It starts with understanding what that is.   This Saturday, 9/27/14, from 1:00 – 4:00 PM, TRRG is facilitating a free education forum at the Ward 6 Council Office, 3202 E. 1st Street.  Acting City Manager, Martha Durkin is a special guest.  The forum is in two parts;  1) The City Charter and 2) The City Manager’s Office.  All are invited encouraged to intend.  

InfillPermitting Infill and adaptive reuse projects in the core of Tucson usually means justifying a new use entitlement in areas that are older and filled with hurdles that smaller initiatives can not clear easily; often not at all.   As neighborhoods force the City to re-examine friendlier policies on incentives in the GIID (Greater Infill Incentive District), It doesn’t promise to get easier.  Developers know that early non-committal  feedback can be derived Tuesday afternoons in a pre-submittal meeting with core planning reviewers.  How big would it be to elevate this service to a more integrative and committed process for all building and development issues; starting core infill and adaptive reuse.  The City Manager’s Office, Jame’s McAdam, is looking at aspects of infill development as we speak, probing issues with planning and the economics initiatives office and PDSD.  I forwarded a proposal before this initiative began with the idea of to seeding some examination of permitting and entitlement for smaller infill projects in the core.  See what you think about this process oriented proposal.  View.  Integrative Permitting and Entitlement

I’d like to quote my friend,  David Eisenberg,  “We need regulations that respond to particular places and recognize the possibility of good news-that if done in a deeply integrated and caring way, development can enhance and even help restore and regenerate damaged places”  I would add to regulations, the notion of mindsets and policies

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The second of Drachman Institute’s 3-part series of transit-related talks took place Friday, August 15th at the Drachman Center, 44 N. Stone Ave., Tucson.  The event started with definitions of  what TOD (Transit Oriented Development) means and how to support density & diversity.   The streetcar is a start, but sustainability of that success has to be larger network with the right development.  In a related post, Jarrett Walker & Associates calls this economic zone  our network map for high frequency transit routes.  The challenge will be reasons to invest.  Kelly Iitzen talked about demographic survey analysis.  Laura Jensen explained GIS mapping of  base demographic regions, zoning areas, bus routes and an array of other data overlays.   Jacob Bintliff from the San Fransisco Firm,  BAE Urban Economics put it together with recommendations for strategic investment planning. Continue Reading »

HFM_TucsonThe results of Jarrett Walker’s trip to Tucson on July 11th.  Here is what he said after taking a look at the old Pueblo:  This map is important!  It shows where transit is useful to people in a hurry, people who don’t have time to wait long.  It’s also usually the backbone on which future expansion will be built, and a logical focal point for location choices, and thus development, for people and organizations that want or need to rely on transit.  The network includes several major bus lines as well as the soon-to-open streetcar.  It also shows the promising beginnings of a high-frequency grid”  Check out Jarrett’s blog:  Human Transit



Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 12.46.50 PMJarrett Walker is an international consultant in public transit planning and policy, including the links between transit and all aspects of community planning and urban structure.  His clients include transit authorities, cities, developers, and non profits – anyone who wants to make better use of public transit as a tool to support resilient communities and social inclusion.  he will be speaking publicly on the 11th of July @ 5PM, 88 E. Broadway ( Unisource Building).  You can download a flyer here:  Jarrett Walker Flier

Mass-Transit Magic

How America’s 4th largest city can abandon its addiction to cars – Salon.com.

Jarrett Walker Coming to TucsonScreen shot 2014-06-30 at 10.39.40 PM

Jarrett Walker, international consultant in public transit planning and policy and author of the highly recommended blog HumanTransit.org (and the 2011 book Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives) will speak in Tucson the evening of Friday, July 11.

Tucson Talks Transit: With Jarrett Walker
Friday July 11, 2014
5:00 reception, 6:00 presentation
TEP downtown HQ, 88 East Broadway

A Net Zero Future

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 12.18.11 AMAfter nearly two decades in economic limbo, the Sunshine Mile should be a lighthouse for new transportation alternatives but as the CFT session get closer to a design conclusion,  it is not clear the final design will be any more than just another 6 lane road project.  The Citizen’s Task Force (CTF) dearly wants to tear open the minds of  RTA leadership, however, as reality set in, it becomes evident that funding has many strings attached to results.  See Chuck Huckelberry’s memorandum of 5/8/14:  Memo.   The ward 6 newsletter tracks this process, now 18 months long.  You can see it in  Excerpts.   You should also view the Broadway Coalition Report  Citizens and surrounding neighborhood leaders has been a large influence in pushing for  balance.   Midtown resident,  JD Garcia offers a guest editorial; Broadway is not a Corridor to Somewhere Else., that is a valuable summary of the corridors history and what would be good for it.

Next citizens task force meeting –  July 17th, 5:30PM,  at the Child & Family Resources, 2800 E. Broadway   For updates on meetings, view the Broadway Boulevard Project Web Page at http://www.tucsonaz.gov/broadway

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 1.56.14 PMQuotes from Bob Cook…”From the beginning, the Broadway Coalition and city-appointed Citizens Task Force have questioned the wisdom of rigidly following the 2006 ballot language specifying a 150-foot-wide, eight-lane roadway…The 2006 RTA Plan was based on inflated projections of traffic volumes that have changed very little in the past two decades…The research supporting the 100-foot width is robust. Rapid suburban population growth is no longer the key to future prosperity because of higher resource costs and climate impacts as well as the preference for urban living by the “millennial” generation…”  please view Bob’s full article in Robert Cook: 8-Lane Roadway no Longer Makes Sense. Continue Reading »

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Tucson Residents for Responsive Government was an outgrowth of meetings during summer 2013 sponsored by Tucson’s Neighborhood Infill Coalition.  These meetings werean outgrowth of the Urban Neighborhood Symposium a year earlier which culminated in a white paper, that led sparked interest in a coalition.   The 2013 summer workshops that followed,  produced a foundation document called This We Believe.  In May of 2014, the  BY-LAWS  for TRRG was written and later accepted. 


Infill..Transition-Stabilization Zones in Tucson’s Urban Core

A resurgence of development from 2008 to 2013, heavy in private student dormitories is now pushing a public dialogue about the impact on core residents.  More than 3,000 new beds in a mile radius of the downtown core coupled with the streetcar project could set the table for retail, services and entertainment sectors to be the next boom in Core Tucson.  How does single family fit into this picture?  At the behest of the Mayor & Council, a Planning Commission subcommittee will try and find out why the GIID’s (greater infill incentive district) biggest project made record profit, but is hurting the future of R1 and R2 zoning in a protected historic district.  The District on 5th is a 700-bed luxury dorm.  While the owners celebrated success, at least six nearby homeowners moved.   As the subcommittee hearings begin, there is an interest in something other than design standards; incentives.
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Infill..Since the real estate crash more than 500 million dollars has poured in the core of Tucson fueled by commercial incentives like the Infill Incentive District (IID).   Now, core residents are concerned about  impact and would like to see a different kind of incentive for infill and edge development that serves to stabilize and not harm their neighborhoods.  They would also like their own brand of incentives.  Here’s what’s happenings:

July 22, DSC, basement Room C @ 6:00PM.  3rd  Planning Commission IID Subcommittee to revise the Infill Incentive District.    This deals with concerns of impact to neighborhoods  from infill development.  A 4th meeting is tentatively scheduled for September 9th.

July 13,  Ward 6 office, 9AM to 12PM.   The Neighborhood Infill Coalition (NIC) is hosting the 2nd neighborhood workshop to seek consensus for neighborhood unity.  Attending will be neighborhood coalitions, leaders and residents.  This follows the 2012 neighborhood symposium, and 3 subsequent resident-staff discussions. 

Talk upThe pursuit of happiness is an important right in the declaration of independence.  As it turns out,  there is more to it than just a  phrase in the 1776 document.  Now, that notion is a recognized measurable gauge of community and individual well-being.   How this relates to our pursuit of better process in planning Tucson’s core is the measure of social capital necessary for effective and harmonious  action.   Anita Fonte talks about that in her new book, Talk Up Tucson: An Exploration of Community Happiness and Prosperity,  The book focuses on an internationally known  concept that links levels of happiness and prosperity to our well being.  The book reflects on Anita’s  Tucson experience and the work of her company, Community Renaissance.   Following consulting work with Kimley-Horn and the RTA,  she decided to write.  From talking and meeting with community leaders and people in Tucson’s development world she published comments and conclusions that gauge our social capital in building a more inclusive process thereby, more “happiness” for everyone.   Her book is available at Antigone Books and Mostly Books