A New City Hall And A Municipal Complex At El Con-Who Needs 'Em?
By Dave Devine
ON JULY 29, the Tucson City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss constructing a new City Hall as part of an overall look at the city's future building needs. Council members will also review a proposal to build a "service center" at El Con.
While City Manager Luis Gutierrez won't comment, he apparently will recommend building a new city hall next to the Tucson/Pima County Main Library downtown. Under this proposal, the old City Hall would house departments now located in outlying locations, like the annex on Pennington Street--a former department store (currently much despised as office space) which, under the new plan, would become a parking garage.
To pay for this and other construction work, Gutierrez will reportedly propose borrowing money from the Business Development Finance Corporation. The city already must pay that entity more than $5.5 million annually through 2012 for previous loans on other municipal building projects.
Plans approved in 1985 called for constructing a 22-story non-governmental office complex and above-ground parking garage next to the new library on Stone Avenue. That $35 million proposal didn't happen. In 1994 city officials discussed the possibility of relocating City Hall to a new building next to the library, but that obviously didn't happen either. Now, Gutierrez intends to resurrect the concept.
Farther east on Broadway, confusion and controversy surround the proposed 40,000-square-foot El Con service center. Details are sketchy, but the complex reportedly would contain a new Ward 6 council office to replace the current Speedway location, purchased just two years ago at a cost of $262,500.
Other components of the facility would be Parks and Recreation Department buildings and a police substation. A fire station might also be included. The site for this development is rumored to be at the northeast corner of Broadway and Dodge, east of the shopping mall.
Ward 6 City Councilman Fred Ronstadt told a meeting last week he didn't have much information about the proposal, and wouldn't have until a week before the July 29 Council session. Ronstadt did not return The Weekly's call on the matter.
Mark Ross, who lives north of El Con, says he doesn't have enough information about the project to take a position on it. He'd like to see the concept brought to the surrounding neighborhoods, however, before a final decision is made.
George Couston, who lives just east of El Con, takes a different view. He says city officials have been hush-hush about the idea because they're trying to appease El Con's owners while preventing those who live near the proposed project from mobilizing against it.
But, Couston said, the neighbors are vehemently opposed to the proposal. Instead, they want to see the service center built on city-owned land south of Broadway. He predicts the El Con project "ain't going to happen."
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