Fox Tucson Theatre expansion project on the horizon

The Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation has plans for a major expansion of its properties on the northwest corner of Stone Avenue and Congress Street, leadership announced on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

“If this vision comes to a reality, what we will have done is create an arts, culture and entertainment hub, on the west end of Congress,” said Bonnie Schock, executive director of the Fox Tucson Theatre.

Benefits would include better artistic program diversity, patron donor services and special event experiences. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the properties… and develop them in a way that complements and extends the Fox’s mission, vision and impact,” said Brent Davis, president of the Fox’s board of directors in a statement.

The Fox’s leadership presented their concepts to Rio Nuevo, with the intention of transforming the historic landmark into a “Downtown destination and best-in-class arts and culture hub at a national level.” 

Rio Nuevo is a Tax Increment Finance District (TIF), which earns half of the state’s sales tax generated within the district, which uses those dollars to invest in economic impact and development projects.

Edmund Marquez, secretary and member of the Rio Nuevo board of directors, called the project an amazing opportunity that would create a downtown and performing arts and events destination. 

If the project is greenlit, the property which was purchased by Rio Nuevo some years ago, would be returned to the Fox.

“We at Rio Nuevo voted to forgive the debt of about $2.7 million on the existing Fox Theatre, allowing them to finance that property to the east, creating a brand new upgraded performance venue,” Marquez said. 

Rio Nuevo’s initial support of debt forgiveness and reassignment of the lease of the existing property places the Fox in a “very strong position,” Marquez said. Additionally, the board agreed to contribute up to $2 million in matching funds for the anticipated project. 

Recently, the owner of the east property decided to sell so the Fox has been able to jump on the opportunity. 

“They still have to get through escrow, they have to close on a property,” Marquez said. “They have a large fundraising effort that they’re going to have to put into place to raise the money to get it done.”

About $21 million is needed to create this upgraded experience for the community which would include a wrap-around digital marquee, bigger lobby space, expanded ADA accessibility, more restrooms, a flexible performance and event center, outdoor rooftop bar and more. 

“I’m ecstatic for our community as they get this deal built and upgraded,” Marquez said. 

“These spaces like this really want to be gathering spaces, places for people to be social and interact with one another,” Schock said. 

While research is ongoing to ensure due diligence on the Fox’s behalf, a Fundraising Feasibility Study is halfway towards completion. The Fox Tucson Theatre hopes to secure the available properties by early 2023, and have a clear trajectory for the necessary fundraising to achieve their vision. 

“It’s such an exciting thing to think about how we invest with purpose in developing spaces in places that we care about and that we can continue to care about,” Schock said. “I really see (the Fox) as a vital anchor for the next generation of people coming downtown.”

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