Tucson Convention Center Hotel rendering (courtesy photo Swain & Associates)

TUCSON, ARIZONA — The Rio Nuevo Board of Directors took steps Tuesday to advance a Convention Center Hotel by un-shuttering the 300-room Hotel Arizona. The 13-story, 155,179-square-foot hotel sits on 3.56-acres with a stand-alone parking structure connected via skywalks at Congress / Broadway and Granada, adjacent to Tucson Convention Center (TCC), in Downtown Tucson

After a feasibility study was conducted by HVS to determine the hotel market conditions in downtown Tucson, the project had lots of support including Brent DeRadd, CEO for Visit Tucson, Glenn Grabski, GM for the Tucson Convention Center, and Bob Hoffman with the Tucson Roadrunners.  All made strong statements in support of the project.  Even a competitor spoke during the call to the audience, Brian Corbell from The Riverpark Inn spoke in full support of the convention center hotel coming back downtown.

Tucson Convention Center Hotel rendering (courtesy photo Swain & Associates)

The Hotel Arizona was built in conjunction with the Tucson Convention Center in the early 1970s and served as Downtown Tucson’s primary convention lodging facility until its closure in 2012. The hotel originally opened as Braniff Place and over the years has been branded as a Marriott and a Holiday Inn. The hotel is now expected to undergo an extensive renovation and modernization to reopen as a DoubleTree by Hilton, or similar brand, once again providing the Downtown with a large convention-oriented lodging facility.

The hotel is expected to include a fully renovated signature restaurant and a three-meal restaurant, as well as a lobby bar and lounge and banquet operations.

Other fully renovated amenities are expected to include a full-service business center with various workstations, a gift shop (featuring a grab-n-go market), wireless Internet access in the public areas, and possible retail boutiques.

The Architect is Swain and Associates of Tucson, the same architectural firm for the AC Tucson Hotel.

The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose District will allow the developer to recapture the Rio Nuevo Site Specific TPT taxes through 2025 and structure a GPLET for the property for up to 25 years.  The developer will spend $20 million to renovate the property.

Plans are to have it open by January 2019, in time for the Gem Show.

Edmund Marquez, a Rio Nuevo Board member, who made the motion to move forward said, “The redeveloped hotel is an opportunity to serve an under-served niche in the market. Based on other communities the size of Tucson, the downtown area is under-served for hotel rooms and that affects the TCC use. Despite current hotel projects underway, there is still greater opportunity downtown for lodging.”

Convention centers generate significant levels of demand for area hotels and serve as a focal point for community activity. Typically, hotels with the closest proximity to a convention center – up to three miles away – benefit the most. The 205,000-square-foot TCC has three Exhibition Halls that can share a total space of 89,760-square-feet. In 2015, the TCC underwent an $8 million renovation that included new seating, updated concession stands and new sound and visual aids. TCC also underwent management change when SMG took on the day-to-day operations from the City.

Last year, TCC become home to the Tucson Roadrunners, a new franchise and affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.

According to Mark Irvin, Secretary of the Rio Nuevo Board, “By my count, Rio Nuevo has helped create close to 700-rooms downtown. There are 139-rooms opening this year at the AC Marriott, 109-rooms in due diligence phase at the Moxy Hotel, 125-rooms at Caliber Hotel and now 300-rooms more when HSL Hilton can be unshuttered. By working closely with the developers and using the arrows in Rio Nuevo’s quiver wisely, we have been able to make it happen.”

The project will now go to the City for GPLET approval.

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