Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Development Proposals for the Ronstadt Transit Center Making Progress, Is Everyone Really OK About It Though?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Phase II of development proposals for the Ronstadt Transit Center downtown were unveiled last week during a public meeting. Despite what we may have read or heard, not everyone is a fan, though. 

Development plans bring fear of gentrification. We've already seen long-time Tucson characters like The District (and others) shutter over high-as-hell rent. While growth is good, watering down the diversity that is downtown Tucson will birth harsh resistance from critics. 

Local homeless advocate and one of the heads behind the Tucson Bus Rider Union Brian Flagg wrote a quick reminder on the blog Voces de Casa Maria that not all is good in the RTC-development-front:
I feel bad because I was stupid enough to allow a reporter to take my words out of context and misrepresent me (“Early Reactions to Ronstadt Plan Positive” Arizona Daily Star, 7/27/2015, http://tucson.com/news/blogs/road_runner/early-reactions-to-ronstadt-plan-positive/article_bd1028a0-55ff-5c75-828e-9ed345103ec4.html) I should have known better. I should have been more disciplined.

He quoted me to the effect that both plans were fine with me.

What I told him was that I would be most happy if both plans disappeared from the face of this earth because ultimately they both mean more gentrification (the process by which those with capital invest in lower income places, gradually making them more yuppie and white, while lower income folks get displaced).

I told him that largely because of the actions of the Tucson Bus Riders Union the City Council has declared that the transit footprint, the transit function, at the Ronstadt would not be reduced. So that became a bottom line for both development plans. I told him how we at the Bus Riders Union see this as a struggle to make it so that bus riders, many of which whom are low income, are not gentrified out of downtown.

I was also clear that the Peach plan was much more conscious of the needs of bus riders and that the Alexander plan seemed much more concerned with historic preservation. I told the reporter that making bus riders enter the center through turnstiles (the Alexander plan) was obnoxious and a mechanism for social control.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik mentioned the meeting on his weekly newsletter, saying the development will be a "benefit to the entire Tucson area, not just downtown."

He, other city leaders and the public got to hear about two proposals—one from the firm Alexander/Campbell and another from Schwabe/Swaim—that include retail, housing and the transit portion. The Alexander/Campbell plan has a cost of about $50 million, while Schwabe/Swaim say it'll cost more than $170 million. Both groups mentioned they'd involve local designers, as we all hope they should.

Kozachik says both would require "some level of public funding involvement, but only the Alexander/Campbell team identified what that would be and at what level." (Any public funding for either one of the proposals would have to be OK under the Arizona Constitution's Gift Clause.)

At the meting, residents handed the development teams a series of questions that should be answered in the next 30 days. There will also be final recommendations from the committee selecting the team that will take on the project. After that, a winning proposal will be chosen, which Kozachik says should come by the middle of next year. 

"This is a big economic opportunity for the region. Six years ago, the City was on the cusp of making a very bad economic decision: building a luxury hotel and using the City’s General Fund as the backstop of the financing. We avoided that mistake, and now we have a chance to take this huge step in the right direction," he says. 

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