When Development Comes ...

A group of UA grad students offers ideas on the future of Tangerine Road

Tangerine Road is mostly a long, dip-filled stretch of nothing as it stretches from Interstate 10 east toward Oro Valley. There's not much to see, and even less to do, other than to try to get across it as fast as possible.

However, development along Tangerine seems inevitable—and is expected by town officials in Marana, through which several miles of the road pass.

No development plans for projects along Tangerine are set in stone. But if—or, rather, when—development begins, those who break ground will have a nifty blueprint from which to work.

A team of four University of Arizona graduate students recently completed an eight-month study of the Tangerine Corridor, the name given to the 32,000-acre area that extends one mile to the north and to the south of Tangerine. Students Aaron Liggett, Karilyn Roach, Matthew Stuart and Hillary Turby put together a conceptual plan at the request of Marana planning director Kevin Kish. The 94-page plan was presented to the Marana Town Council in late March.

"This was an opportunity to give students experience," said Kish, who suggested the project to the students after speaking at the UA last year about the process for updating Marana's general plan. "We asked them to take our documents, take our policies, and seek out some best practices for this area."

The conceptual plan isn't expected to be formally implemented by the town, said Beth Scott, the assistant professor at the UA's School of Landscape Architecture and Planning who oversaw the project.

"It's really just exploratory," Scott said.

Scott said the students—who declined to be interviewed for this story—were given access to all of Marana's planning info, and told to come up with a "How would you envision development?" scenario for maximum buildout along Tangerine.

"It wasn't so much options—more like, 'If we were going to do something like this, what kind of things do we need to keep in mind?'" Scott said.

Such plans normally take years to complete, but with only months to do the job, the students had to approach the conceptual plan with a "broad brush," Scott said.

That included comparing the Tangerine area to planned or existing mixed-use developments near Chandler, Denver, Houston, and Irvine, Calif.—as well as a 1,273-acre project in China.

"Students did case-study background research, which drew out key principles to what are the right approaches to land use," Scott said.

That research brought about some suggestions for land use along Tangerine that impressed Kish and other Marana officials. Most notable was the idea to lump certain similar land uses into concentrated development districts.

"The way that they broke it into the districts, with each district having its own idea, is huge," Kish said. "Just planting the seed and laying the foundation for that ... is a special idea and has huge opportunities."

The six districts the students suggested, located generally from west to east, are sports and entertainment; industry research and development; lifestyle; high-tech research; high-tech education; and luxury retail.

Suggestions for the sports and entertainment district, which includes the land northeast of I-10 and Tangerine, includes a stadium complex similar to those mentioned when local officials were considering a new facility to keep baseball spring training in the Tucson area.

At the east end of the corridor, the luxury retail district would serve as a draw for people living in Marana's affluent Dove Mountain neighborhoods.

The report says the six districts were developed with the intention of adhering to the goals in Marana's 2010 general-plan update. That update identified the Tangerine Road area as critical to the town's economic growth.

Curt Woody, Marana's new economic development director, said two of the town's nine identified "activity centers" fall within the boundaries of the Tangerine conceptual plan. The plan appears to align with the notion of keeping mixed-use development close to the freeway, and putting work centers—such as the technology and education districts—farther east.

Woody says such clustering would fit well with the town's desire to have its planning and economic-development departments, along with other departments, work together to provide developers with a one-stop business center when building within Marana's borders.

"This goes toward the overall attitude of the town, to be helpful, to get out of the way of commerce," Woody said. "We're here to help them."

One major hurdle noted in the conceptual plan was the amount of state trust land within the corridor. One-third of the property analyzed is owned by the state, including nearly all of the parcels along Tangerine. The state has no plans to put them on the market, Woody said, so development along Tangerine Road won't happen soon.

"Development for the sake of development serves no one," Woody said. "We need to be smart with our resources."

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