News and Projects

Marist College, 64 W. Ochoa Street

The Diocese of Tucson constructed the Marist College building in 1916.  At 52 feet high, it is the tallest structure in Arizona built of unfired adobe brick. It measures approximately 12,000 square feet over three floors.  Representing a unique blend of Italianate and Spanish Colonial styles and Mexican adobe construction techniques, the building was commissioned by Tucson’s third Bishop, Henri Granjon, and constructed by prominent local builder Manuel Flores. Marist College initially served as a parochial school for boys, and then was opened to both sexes and all races in 1924.  This was Tucson’s first unsegregated school, which remained open until 1968.  It then served as the offices of the Diocese until 2002. The building was one of four structures placed, as a District, on the National Register of Historic Places.

From 2002 until 2017, the building remained unoccupied and had rapidly deteriorated. Because of the clogging of downspouts, a heavy storm in 2005 flooded the roof, and ultimately caused the collapse of three corners of the building. Emergency bracing was funded by an Arizona Heritage Fund grant obtained by the City of Tucson, matched by the Diocese. In 2006, the Ward 1 Council Office funded a structural analysis to determine the scope and cost of long-term stabilization and rehabilitation. In 2009, the City Historic Preservation Office provided funding for emergency roof repairs and replacement of protective tarps, in exchange for a façade preservation easement conveyed to the City. In 2010, the City Historic Preservation Office obtained grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, and a match from the Diocese, to conduct additional emergency repairs and a new structural evaluation.

In 2016 and 2017, after a series of unsuccessful efforts at adaptive re-use, the Marist College building became part of a funded Low Income Housing Tax Credit proposal. The project was a cooperative effort by the Diocese, the non-profit developer Foundation for Senior Living, with Tofel Construction and architects Poster Frost Mirto. Additional funding and support came from a variety sources including the City of Tucson, Pima County, Rio Nuevo, and Federal Home Loan Bank.  Along with an equity investor, FSL will own the Marist College building with a long-term ground lease from the Diocese. Together with an adjacent new mid-rise tower at the corner of Church and Broadway, the project will provide affordable housing for 83 lower income seniors. The Marist College building will be completely rehabilitated and will ultimately provide 8 units of 1-bedroom apartments and a common community hall in the lower level. The exterior will be fully restored to it 1916 appearance.

 

Exterior Repairs to El Con Water Tower are Complete!

"Before" and "After" Photographs

 

The City of Tucson owns—either in full or in part — 624 properties of historic age. Historic properties require continual maintenance and the City of Tucson is committed to finding revenue streams to maintain its portfolio of historic assets. Included in the inventory of properties owned by the City, is the iconic El Con Water Tower. The El Con Water Tower is an individually-listed property in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a City of Tucson Historic Landmark.

In 2013, The City of Tucson was allocated Housing and Urban Development Department Community Development Block Grant funding to use towards historic preservation activities meeting blight remediation. Under this allocation, the City was able to repair the exterior of the historic water tower.

In 1928, the El Con Water Tower was built by Martin Schwerin to provide water service to the subdivision of Colonia Solana. Four years later, architect Roy Place designed the ornate tower “sheathing” to enclose the metal frame, mask the 50,000-gallon tank, and highlight the neighboring subdivision of Colonia Solana.

The 90-foot tower features three small windows on the lower half of the north and south façades; while the east and west façades are unbroken planes of stucco.  Atop the tower is an octagonal cupola topped with red Spanish tile and arched windows flanked by ornate twisted columns. At the apex, a wrought‑iron weather vane designed by architect Josias Joesler depicts the silhouette of a prospector and his donkey.  Two large doors at the base of the tower face north and south and are capped by elaborate bas‑relief scroll plaster ornamentation. 

The experienced contractor team for this repair project included Sellers & Sons, Inc. (General Contractor); Poster Frost Mirto (Architects); Bob Evans (Carpentry), Rustic Masonry (Stucco), and Wiese Panting Contractors, Inc. (Painting). Under the supervision of the City of Tucson Historic Preservation Program within the Office of Integrated Planning, the project included replacing rotted and broken wood door framing, rebuilding wood doors, repairing metal louvers over doors, patching and repainting exterior stucco, repairing and repainting plaster medallions and friezes, removing water staining, replacing missing roof tiles and securing loose tiles, repairing decorative pillars at top the of the tower, repairing the perimeter planting bed, and bee removal.