Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation – New Stakeholder on Sunshine Mile

2934 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson AZ Photo by Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas (2014)

TUCSON, AZ — Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation recently purchased the former Hirsh’s Shoe Store building at 2934 East Broadway Blvd. in Tucson for $200,000 ($77 PSF). The Foundation plans to update the building through the use of grant money and private fundraising as well as a commercial partner for the storefront space. If possible, the Foundation would occupy an office and storage space in the back of the mid-century, post World War II designed building.

In 1953 a contest was sponsored by the East Broadway Merchants to come up with a name for the strip between Euclid and Country Club. Out of 5,000 entries, The Sunshine Mile was selected.

It was 1954 when Rose Hirsh commissioned architect, Bernard Friedman to design the building as a free-standing building for the Hirsh’s Shoe Store. It soon became surrounded by other buildings along Broadway Boulevard built largely from 1939 to 1972.

photo by Sid Hirsh (1954) courtesy Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation Archive

While Bernard Friedman is perhaps best known for the sculptural sweep of the Chase bank building on the corner of Broadway and Country Club Road, he is also responsible for many of the important buildings throughout Tucson and Arizona. He designed for the University of Arizona and Pima College. Mr. Friedman’s projects covered a broad range of commercial, civic and municipal buildings including the Tucson Community Center (now the Tucson Convention Center); Tucson Music Hall; Tucson City Hall; the El Con Shopping Center; and the Chris-Town Mall in Phoenix. He designed the current home of Temple Emanu-El, the first synagogue in the Arizona Territory, and was a member of the temple until his death on June 21, 2012 at the age of 96.

Although the Foundation is not opposing the current Broadway road widening, it has concerns, and was instrumental in getting the Sunshine Mile from Euclid to Country Club onto the National Trust Historic Preservation’s 2016 – 11 Most Endangered List as announced last week. The National Trust is a DC advocacy group that monitors and makes the public aware of such areas that haven’t been designated as “historic” by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The two-mile section along Broadway Boulevard has many structures featuring geometric designs and glass storefronts. In the 1950s and ‘60s, Broadway was the city’s main east-west thoroughfare and a popular destination for shoppers and diners.

Over the years, Sunshine Mile has been overshadowed by the funky boutiques and bars of Fourth Avenue near the University, and more recently by a revitalized downtown Tucson, both on the new streetcar route. Three years ago, neighborhood merchants worked together to revitalize and reboot the area’s image. They unveiled a mural as well as a website https://www.sunshinemile.com/ in an effort to brand and promote the two-mile stretch from Euclid to Country Club Road and to include three blocks to the north and south of the Broadway corridor.

Demion Clinco, executive director of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, says, “We want to show ‘how it should be done’ with our building and assist other businesses restore these commercial buildings to what they once were – thriving retail businesses.” Using San Francisco as a model city, Clinco told us San Francisco has been in the forefront of supporting businesses while preserving iconic buildings. The Foundation would like to see a comprehensive City plan that would accomplish building preservation while boosting the economic vitality of the area.

In 2012, the Arizona Preservation Foundation had designated this stretch of Broadway as one of the state’s most endangered historic places, based on the original voter approved 8-lane roadway widening. The City of Tucson and RTA then reduced the road widening to six-lanes. This changed the original 127 potentially significant properties to be razed, to the current 30% design with 27 potentially significant buildings for possible demolition. Most of the business owners along Broadway have only asked for the City to make a decision, so that they could plan accordingly, after such a long wait.

Of the two lists of buildings, that of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation (to preserve) and the RTA Broadway widening project (to be razed) there is only one building that overlaps both lists and may be threatened by the road widening. This to the credit of the road widening planning of Tucson Dept. of Transportation and Broadway Project Manager, Beth Abramovitz, P.E.

Abramovitz told us the City is moving ahead as planned with property acquisitions along Broadway since Tucson Mayor and City Council approved an agreement with the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to proceed in April. Construction of the roadway is scheduled to begin in 2017-2018.

The Hirsh Family Trust sold the property after closing Hirsh’s Shoe Store this past April only after all the employees were ready to retire.  There were no brokers involved in the sale transaction.

James Terry Lavery with Realty Executives Tucson Elite of Tucson is representing the buyer in finding a commercial development partner.

For addition information, Lavery should be reached at 520.390.0894.

To learn more, see RED Comp #4195.