Downtown is one big construction zone this summer

Downtown is one big construction zone this summer

In my 36 years living downtown, I've never seen so much activity. Here's a quick look at what's happening.

Demolition is starting today on one of my favorite small buildings, the former offices of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, at the southeast corner of Church and Broadway. The front of the building faces west, which makes it difficult to design a facade that's welcoming but holds back the heat of the afternoon. The architects did a nice job here with large windows that angle to keep out the sun while at the same time allowing humans to see both in and out. So many public buildings are like castles with blank walls on the street. Does anyone who know designed this building? It was the Miller, Pitt & McAnally law office from the early 1970s until the diocese moved in. Now it's being knocked down to create apartments for low-income seniors.

The demolition that started today is part of a larger project called Cathedral Square. It will include new offices for the diocese and a conference center. Best of all, the collapsing Marist College -- perhaps the tallest mud adobe in Arizona -- will finally be restored as senior housing and a community center. I am sad about the destruction of the building at Church and Broadway, but the trade off is worth it to finally have the Marist College -- built in 1915 as a school for boys -- restored.

There's more senior housing coming just a block away, at the southeast corner of Stone and Broadway. The long-closed Westerner hotel is being re-developed by La Frontera.

A project I never thought I'd live long enough to see is the development of the old Thrifty drug store block on the south side of Congress between Stone and Scott avenues. The City Council sold the block for $100 back in 2004 to a developer who also got the city to demolish the buildings. And then for 13 years he made promise after promise to build on the site. Trouble was, terms of the sale didn't give the city any recourse when he failed to act. Now at long, long last there is construction on a commercial/office project called City Park. Can't wait to see the park!

 

I am thrilled about the AC Hotel under construction at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, although I have to mutter to myself "Rome wasn't built in a day" every time I am caught in the weekday traffic jams where construction has blocked one lane of traffic on Broadway.

On the north side of downtown, just northeast of Sixth Street and Stone Avenue, there's a large apartment complex.

 

The Coronado Hotel Apartments, at the southeast corner of 9th Street and Fourth Avenue, are being renovated. The name is a little confusing. It was built as a hotel in the 1920s but has been apartments since 1991.

 

The McCormick apartments just opened at 201 S. Stone. That's just south of the cathedral. It bills itself as a "gated community." Now that must be a first for downtown. I am going to be positive about the design. Let's see, what to say. It is good (and I mean that sincerely) that the project is sited right next to the street. That makes it safer for everyone and gives it an urban vibe.

 

My favorite part of the Downtown Motor Apartments at 383 S. Stone Ave., is that the developer kept the old hotel sign. The building was vacant for years. Most of it was demolished and rebuilt as apartments for veterans, artists and downtown workers. It opened about two months ago.

Tucson's Etch A Sketch fountain

Tucson's Etch A Sketch fountain

Hoping the Gallery in the Sun fire didn't destroy all of this

Hoping the Gallery in the Sun fire didn't destroy all of this