El Cortez Neighborhood Profile

El Cortez by Marlene Avelino


El Cortez is a small neighborhood of about 200 homes, bordered by Grant Road to the north, 1st Avenue to the east, Seneca Street to the south, and 4th Avenue to the west. The neighborhood was annexed by the city in 1938, but most of the homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s. The majority are single family homes built out of brick, but there are a handful of adobe and slump block homes  sprinkled throughout. El Cortez is a neighborly place, conveniently located close to grocery stores, downtown, and major transit routes.


A unique feature of the neighborhood is that it is 100% residential, and over 60% of residents own their homes; there are no businesses, churches, or schools within the bounds of El Cortez. Enchanted Dragon Tattoo used to be on the corner of 4th Avenue and Grant Road, but it was swallowed up by the Grant Road widening project. Jefferson Park Elementary School is just to the east and Mansfield Park is just across 4th Avenue to the west.

At the start of the 20th century this was part of a larger area known pejoratively as "Tentville." The area stretched all the way down to Speedway and was made up of tents that housed the many impoverished people suffering from tuberculosis who had moved to Tucson for the dry climate. Eventually sanitariums were built, including St. Luke's Home, which is now an assisted living facility. 

El Cortez has an active neighborhood association headed by President Will Nelson, Vice President Martha Retallick, and Secretary Michael Tamarack. The association started in 1995 when it seceded from Sugar Hill, then known as Northwest. The neighborhood association meets quarterly, and the next meeting will be held in October. During weekly Thursdat night clean ups, the association also strolls the streets picking up trash with their neighbors. You can visit their website at: http://elcortezheights.org/ and reach out for information at: elcortezhts@gmail.com.


"Unity" by Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead

El Cortez received its first public art installation as part of the Grant Road widening project, and it's located along Grant Road between 3rd Avenue and Los Altos. There you can see "Unity": the 20 foot sculpture depicting 5 people standing in a circle, facing outward, holding hands, and leaning forward.  “Unity” is made of hundreds of parallel, vertically aligned stainless steel plates, each held 1 inch apart. The piece shows cooperation, trust, and the collective effort required to form the unbroken ring.