Paul's Note - August 3, 2018

Restaurant Row on Tanque Verde has long been a destination for families, particularly from the East Side. Lately, though, we’ve had a lot of vacancies and business has been down for some of the businesses in the area.

Downtown restaurants have seen a resurgence, some of that due to incentives we’ve offered for locating in the area. Many of these incentives, such as a break on the required number of parking spaces, wouldn’t do much good in our part of town. I’ve arranged for meetings with local business people and our economic development office, but we haven’t come up with the silver bullet to solve the problem.

That’s why I was happy to be approached by the Mayor’s office about the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use. Tucson was selected by the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use to participate in its fellowship program this year. The Rose Center is a partnership between the National League of Cities and the Urban Land institute. The primary purpose of the Fellowship is to provide Tucson with technical assistance on selected areas of our city. I was asked to select an area in Ward 2 for study by the fellowship program, and I chose Restaurant Row.

My colleagues and I have been working on infill and other incentives for different wards for some time even before the Rose Center approached us. Hopefully, this will mean that we can get incentive districts in more parts of town.

A panel from the Rose Center visited Tucson in February. They have already given a preliminary presentation on North Oracle Road and we will see a final presentation November.

One thing that would help Restaurant Row and any business district is to make sure that it is accessible for residents across Tucson, no matter what neighborhood they live in. Tanque Verde Road is one of our main thoroughfares in this part of town, so it is easily accessible by car. How easy is the Row to access if you have to take the bus? Or ride your bike? Or even to walk to if you are in a nearby neighborhood.

These questions are all the ones that are addressed by the Complete Streets concept. Although we have put a lot of effort in the last five years on improving our blacktop, we have a long way to go on sidewalks that actually connect neighborhoods or a bus system that’s easy to use for casual riders.

Two years ago, Living Streets Alliance was awarded a grant to pursue a comprehensive and equitable Complete Streets policy in Tucson. Complete Streets may sound like an abstract concept out of a transportation engineer’s handbook, but here in Tucson, we all know too well what an “incomplete” street looks like. We’ve experienced an incomplete street when we were walking to our neighbor’s house and the sidewalk suddenly ended, had to wait a half an hour for a bus, saw someone in a wheelchair rolling in the bike lane on a busy street or couldn’t let our kid walk to school or a park just a few blocks from our home because of busy streets with speeding drivers.

This would not look the same for our business districts and neighborhoods on the East Side the way it would in Midtown or the South Side. There isn’t a single uniform design to create a Complete Street. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, shade, narrower travel lanes, street elements that encourage slower speeds, and more. All in all, the idea is to provide a reliable and connected network for whatever way people need to get around. That’s why policy makers like me have to make sure that there isn’t a one-size (or one side of town) fits all policy. That also means dialogue with constituents.

Ward 2 is partnering with the Living Streets Alliance to host a community dialogue and workshop called “Rethinking Streets.” This won’t be a lecture or speech, but a conversation where you will be invited to share your hopes for our community and how reshaping our streets can support that. Your ideas will help inform and guide a Complete Streets policy that will greatly impact our city for generations to come.

This will be in Room C (that’s the big room) at my office, 7575 E Speedway, August 23rd from 5:30 – 8 pm.

A light dinner will be provided. Children are welcome to attend with their parents.

Please RSVP by Thursday, August 16th. Feel free to contact Gabi from the Living Streets Alliance if you have any questions or need materials in other languages or formats: gabibl@email.arizona.edu , 520-621-9333.

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After several months of work, Jesse Owens Park will be having a ribbon cutting to debut improvements to both ball fields and playground facilities.

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 am near the playground area on the west side of the park.

We spent $2,018,000 to improve the park. Nearly $1 million of that went to re-doing the irrigation system. That money, by the way, came from Tucson Water’s conservation fund. The new system will use less water and is designed for the current layout of the park.

The remainder of the money came from impact fees and private sources, including Cox Cable and former Arizona Wildcat Corey Williams, who is a resident of that neighborhood.

I’d like all of you to attend and see what we’ve done at the park.