In response to Margaret Regan's article concerning the Downtown Alliance ("Downtown Showdown," August 26), and in order to gain a more accurate perception of the effectiveness of the Alliance by those who live, work, shop and recreate in the downtown area, petitions were circulated the week following the article. Hundreds of individual signatures, including those from representatives of virtually every downtown street-level business, a number of surrounding neighborhood leaders, and various City of Tucson officials, reflect overwhelming satisfaction with the efforts of the Alliance. In fact, it seems only a handful of people, most of whom were identified in the article itself, were critical of the Alliance.
The Alliance has two basic goals: 1) to improve conditions in downtown as it exists today, and 2) to bring more good things to downtown.
We pursue the first goal in three basic ways: maintenance, security and marketing. These functions will always be our primary focus, taking up almost all of our budget and staff time.
In our first year of operation, we concentrated on getting our maintenance and security service up and running. As a result of daily sidewalk cleaning, trash collection and countless other small tasks, downtown today is clean and presentable; a far cry from the situation a year ago. The impact of our security activities is just as dramatic. There are far fewer incidents of panhandling, harassment and other bad behavior downtown. The profound improvement in the downtown's appearance and atmosphere is a testament to the hard work and friendly attitude of the "purple people," as well as to the organizational skills and efforts of the supervisory staff of the Alliance.
During this past year, our efforts in regard to marketing have focused on developing a marketing campaign that is responsive to identified needs. To that end, our marketing committee, composed of Alliance staff, board members and non-board participants, has been working to implement a system for event calendaring, a network for cross-marketing of downtown entertainment and retail opportunities, and a team approach to event coordination. In the successive months we expect to fully execute our marketing program and begin to evaluate its effectiveness.
In addition to improving conditions downtown, we also seek to bring new things to the area (our second basic goal). We intend to do so in the same way any shopping district would be developed -- through securing one or more anchor establishments capable of drawing large numbers of people on a regular basis, and through attracting numerous small businesses that will have a synergistic relationship with the anchors. While doing so, we are sensitive to maintaining consistency with our rich history, culture and tradition.
With respect to anchor establishments and similar infrastructure projects like parking garages, we recognize, and everyone needs to recognize, that the Alliance can do no more than advocate, and we have been a strong advocate in that regard. We do not own property that can be developed. We do not have funds that can be invested. We do not control the City Council or the state Legislature. We can, however, work with all of the interested components of our community to improve its downtown.
With respect to small business development, we have spent the last year outlining a development plan and specific business retention and recruitment services while providing business assistance and counseling. As with marketing, we expect that these Alliance activities will come to the forefront in our second year. Unlike anchor projects, where we are limited to an advocacy role, business recruitment and retention are areas where our staff can provide tangible help.
Our development plan is quite simple: the Congress Street area is envisioned as an arts, retail, restaurant and entertainment district complementing the Museum of Art and historic Presidio neighborhood; and the Stone and Church areas are seen as a center for traditional office and retail business. We are putting together leasing packages and broker-referral programs, and have already helped in the recruitment or retention of downtown businesses.
To learn more about our organization, everyone is welcome to attend our board meetings, or more importantly, to attend and become active in our marketing and outreach committees. Interested persons should call our offices for dates and times and information about how they can help downtown.
-- Richard S. Oseran
Co-chair, Tucson Downtown Alliance