Excitement is building around the redevelopment of the 4.7 acre Ronstadt Transit Center as evidenced by 300 Tucsonans showing up in the middle of the week to learn details of the proposals by Alexander/Oasis and Peach Properties.
Historically and culturally, this is a sensitive site even before downtown standards, where everything is sensitive. It’s located in the center of key downtown destinations, including the Temple of Music and Art, the Leo Rich Theater, the Music Hall, the Fox Theater, the Children’s Museum, Armory Park and the new street car on Congress. A plaza in this location has the potential to connect and support all these elements.
The streetcar development has certainly been instrumental in downtown Tucson picking up steam and is often attributed with having brought over $200 million in private investment downtown. But to me, the real key to Tucson’s revitalization has been the newly found collaboration among leadership in Tucson’s public and private sectors. The Rio Nuevo Board members have understood this and led the way with successful public-private partnership (P3) projects.
These investments include public leveraging of private resources in shops, restaurants, other businesses and housing. With $25 million to invest in infrastructure and related improvements, it plans to leverage $200 million or more in private investment over the next few years.
The Ronstadt Transit Center redevelopment is the next major P3 project between the City, Rio Nuevo and a successful developer. With the transit center literally in the middle of the mix, makes it a very complex and difficult mixed-use project. Both developers have transportation experts and traffic flow advisors on their team, just to respond to the RFP and City’s transportation analysis.
The “inter-modal transit center” as the Alexander/Oasis team sees it conceptually, should have a traffic circle off Toole Avenue for bus entrance and include 15 bays for Sun Tran buses indoors and 2-3 outside bays for Greyhound, bike share, rideshare, and airport shuttles. The City is to maintain ownership, control and operations of the facility, with a 626 space garage and new center paid for from project revenues and lease payments from development.
Peach calls their vision a “linear transit mall” that would use Congress Street and Toole Avenue for entry and exit to the hub, with 13 bus spaces indoors and two outside, there was concern for longer buses eventually being added to the Sun Tran fleet. Sun Tran currently has 850 busses in service and plan this number to grow to 1200, so such considerations are important to the project.
With 97% occupancy downtown, naturally more housing is apparent in both plans.
The Alexander/Oasis proposes to add 378 residential market rate units in two six-story buildings while Peach’s vision is to add 250 residential units, with 20% affordable housing, for all ages and economic backgrounds. Hotel metrics show all-time highs, also in a sweet spot, and suggest from preliminary studies Downtown Tucson could well receive an additional 144-room second boutique hotel in addition to the AC Hotel at Broadway & 5th about to break ground.
Both have commercial elements for office and retail to activate Congress, 6th Avenue and nicely thought out open space.
Both developers have also had to wrestle with the economic feasibility of the project and be comfortable that they can deliver what they have proposed. “There are too many proposed projects in Tucson that just never happen,” Jim Campbell of Oasis Tucson said. “We know we can make our proposal happen.”
Campbell added, “The important thing is not whether which team wins, as long as Tucson wins and the Ronstadt project happens.”
The $49.1 million price tag for the Alexander / Oasis plan is for the south side of the project, the total cost was estimated to be closer to $84 million. The Peach Properties proposal was reported to come in at $174 million for the total concept cost, including wellness center, skywalk and Corbett building area proposal for a new Greyhound terminus, the Warehouse District and that whole symbiotic relationship. We were unable to reach anyone on the Peach team for a further breakdown.
With all of this activity, combined with a recovering economy, several positive P3 projects now under the belt, and a growing urban population, all eyes are on Downtown Tucson’s Ronstadt Center expected to solidify into the heart and soul of the City.
To learn more about the project go to http://www.tucsonaz.gov/integrated-planning/ronstadt-transit-center-joint-development
View the presentations by both developers via Tucson 12: http://1.usa.gov/1JBGQEf
To submit your comments of encouragement for this project email Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org by end of day Friday.