Archive for January, 2012

If you happen to drive down 6th street in Tucson, you probably have noticed what appears to be a five story tall 2″ thick stick drywall sheeted wood behemoth, just west of Fourth Avenue.  This is THE DISTRICT ON 5TH,  a LEED Silver ® certified student housing project.   Many agree that a significant project was needed for the old YWCA demolition site which was a giant hole for two years.  There is little question that it is clean, modern, and brings much needed work to Tucson.  Its environmental awards and neighborhood LEED points on the other hand, should not go down without criticism.   Just a little over a year ago, The District,  won a fight with West University Neighborhood  over transitions, shocking  residents with what may better show how not to transition into a historic neighborhood.   See Edge Development Pressuring Neighborhoods.    The scale down is an attempt but there is a bigger story regarding its failure in that regards and its potential contribution to homeowner disinvestment.  It is a good project on the drafting boards and in the marketing rooms, but a different story to U of A area residents.  Neighborhoods are being lost and de-valued, because their boundaries ultimately are always up for grabs.   As for LEED ratings it appears, the USGBC has no limitation as to the use of minimalist wood frame construction for high rise housing as being sustainable.  It does raise eyebrows.  The District will store a lot of students.  It is a fully functional amenity rich private dorm with 7 floor plans ranging in the mid $600’s to $700’s per room per student.  It is very similar in concept to modern student group homes that have taken out large chunks of university neighborhoods.  See Mini-Dorms.  Scale is the difference.  There is no question that arterial edges are the place for these, but transition rights need to be real for homeowners.   As the heat is on for density, so are the embers threatening to ignite neighborhoods wanting a future they can rely on and compensation from the effects of heavy handed development.   Welcome to the post proposition 207 era, where Tucson is hamstrung to the point that protective planning regulation is near obsolete and citizens are  realizing any  protection is up to them.

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The Main Gate District is the latest  proposal for a re-zoned urban overlay district (UOD) in Tucson.  One that is nearing completion is DowntownLINKS,  a warehouse district overlay.   To make these happen, the Mayor and Council in August 2010 adopted an urban overlay district enabling ordinance that allows them to initiate a rezoning in parts of the City that they most desire to have the zoning option to develop as transit-oriented development.  Specific re-zoning proposals that fall with the UOD boundaries can later obtain neighborhood input and a consensus on transitions an overlays such as the Main Gate District.  Urban overlay re-zoning proposals will all inevitably border against viable established neighborhoods.   You can view the City’s website for some of their other attempts at spurring urban growth.   The Main Gate District will require  demolitions, particularly where proposed hi-rise zones slam into single story homes that are also designated with an opt-in for hi-density and which will promote ultimately insure removal.   That can be good or bad.  The Main Gate District Plan by  Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott of Boston, Massachusetts can be downloaded for you viewing here.  Main Gate District (PDF)     WUNA’s plan (PDF)     Letter from WUNA (PDF)

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