TUCSON, Ariz. – During its April 8th meeting, the Rio Nuevo Board authorized a new grant program, up to $2.5 million, for small businesses within the district's TIF boundaries, downtown and along Broadway, that need some economic relief to manage through the COVID 19 crisis.
The goal is to get money to the businesses in the short term while they wait for federal stimulus dollars which must go through a longer process.
The Board expects to immediately launch a grant application format that would allow affected businesses to apply for funds not covered under the Federal Paycheck Protection Plan.
Individually these grants are expected to be small and available to businesses that need some immediate help to survive. The Board did not set a grant limit but suggested quick turn-around for grants in the $5,000 to $10,000 dollar range and a longer review for larger requests. Watch the website for more detailed information, rionuevo.org.
The Board also heard a proposal from Nor Gen to build a 7,000 seat outdoor amphitheater on the property at Congress and Interstate 10, commonly referred to as the "Arena Lot". The District board had recently indicated their intent to sue the developer over the stalled-out development.
In other business, the Board voted to approve Ross Rulney's request to develop the former Access 12 building located at 124 E. Broadway rather than developing the lot at 140 E. Broadway. Rulney recently acquired the abandoned building from the city and is expected to launch over 20,000 feet of new restaurant and retail space.
“Not only is downtown dark and under extreme peril," said Board Chair Fletcher McCusker. “But it went from thriving to maybe not even surviving.”
This meeting reflected the new reality for Rio Nuevo, advancing new projects but also working to save what it has already helped establish. "We have never been more challenged nor more proud of our work to-date" stated Chairman Fletcher McCusker.
In order to pay for the stimulus, the board will put some of its projects on hold. Rio Nuevo has been the engine that has propelled downtown to a nearly $2 billion growth spurt in the past 10 years. Its funding comes from sales tax revenues paid in the district. If businesses close, revenues drop.
“Revenues may fall to zero,” McCusker said. “But we’re not going to allow this invisible enemy to cause us to falter.”