Well, thank you, Tucson Weekly, for highlighting some of the obvious ineptitude taking place on both sides of the line between the Downtown BID and City Hall. Unfortunately, the one issue neither side ever mentions is the need to develop more housing downtown.
Downtown has already found its market balance given its current weekday population and small contingency of residents. To add more retail and services without increasing the local population is not only absurd but defies all market principles. Downtown needs to be a self-supporting community and not reliant on the rest of Tucson to occasionally come by and shop. It is the only way downtown will survive in today's Tucson.
Arguments of needing to develop more services and retail before more housing do not hold water.
Here are two examples why:
First, a local example. Look anywhere around this over-expanding town and you first see the housing developments built and occupied before the strip malls that eventually surround them are filled in with services. Why? Because no right-minded businessman would build a business where there are no customers. Retailers have far less time to wait for customers than do residential builders.
Second, a regional example. Look to any of our sister cities in the West and you will see them developing both retail and housing simultaneously in their downtowns. Denver, Austin, Portland and San Diego are all revitalizing their downtowns by moving people into downtown. Not subsidized housing, but middle- to upper-income housing. These are the people that fill the streets at night when the day workers have left. These are the people that build communities and neighborhoods and can support services year-round.
All this bickering will continue while there is too little money in downtown. Move in people with disposable incomes and watch the bitching stop.
At the rate this town puts up apartment complexes I can't imagine the city should have a hard time finding a builder who could be given incentive to build an apartment complex to fill this need. Redondo Towers is a perfect example of housing in downtown. More is needed.
As anyone who walks around downtown knows, it is full of buildings waiting to be utilized commercially. The old Thrifty building, the long dormant Fox Theatre, the old saloon on Congress and many others all could be developed if only business people saw a population that needed to be serviced.
Additionally, the BID is kidding itself if it ever thinks it will lure large, high-end corporate retailers to downtown in its current state. Having recently moved from New York City, I have worked with the very people who make those decisions (Gap, Nautica, Banana Republic, J. Crew), and until there is sustainable pedestrian traffic downtown, no big company will spend their money in downtown Tucson. That's why they pick the malls.
If the Downtown BID and City Hall could come together on finding a way to develop more housing in downtown, the economic woes that plague downtown would solve themselves and both could then claim to be visionaries.
-- Jonathan V. Porcelli
It never ceases to amaze me how Tucson politicians and city staffers have this amazing knack for reinventing themselves, no matter how poorly they perform in their positions of power. As a city staffer in the Economic Development Office, Carol Carpenter's only monumental accomplishment was to land for herself the higher paying director's position at the Downtown Alliance Business Improvement District. The primary complaint voiced by downtown merchants is that Carpenter has been just as ineffective in promoting downtown economic development with the BID as she was when employed with Tucson Economic Development. Despite her unscrupulous lobbying and jockeying for the position, as well as her nepotistic hiring practices and incompetence, Carpenter manages to maintain her phony baloney position in the Tucson political arena. In the end, Tucson is still a city with no heart. Struggling downtown merchants deserve a formidable candidate who will promote economic prosperity to aiding the downtown business district. Carol Carpenter is nothing more than the clogged artery that is suffocating the heart of Tucson. It's time for some radical alterations to the system.
-- Michael McGuire