Best Of Tucson®

Best Abandoned Building

17 W. Congress St.

STAFF PICK: A wall of plywood stares blankly at the pedestrians hurrying by 17 W. Congress St. What little you can see of the structure makes the plywood look pretty good by comparison, but what you can't see is downtown's greatest hidden treasure: the old Fox Theater. The one-time movie palace has been boarded up for 25 years now, an insane tax write-off for its owners. There's far more to the Fox than what's exposed to the street; the lobby structure leads north to a much larger building running east and west through the middle of the block, completely surrounded by dumpy shops. The Fox is great not as a hidden derelict moaning in the dark, but as a potential 1,300-seat performance hall. Its 1930s, art-deco interior is said to be in fair shape still. According to a city-commissioned estimate, a mere $3.5-million kiss would revive this sleeping beauty, and millions more would transform this old movie house into a state-of-the-art performance center. And there's the problem; this Foxy lady would be an expensive mistress. But Tucson thrives on crazy ideas, and a revived Fox Theater, together with the steady Rialto and nearby Temple of Music and Art, might help downtown howl again.

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