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Rio Nuevo rolling with slate of new projects OK'd

Rio Nuevo's board unanimously approved at its most recent meeting a slate of projects that will continue the 23-year-old effort to revitalize Downtown Tucson.

The projects OKed by the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District are:

A two-phase $180 million hotel and residential complex to a new bar and restaurant on Congress Street and the block encompassing North 6th Avenue and East 7th Street. 

Phase one is an $8 million renovation of the Corbett Building. This renovation will include an “old school” burger joint, a beer garden, five pickleball courts, and 188 parking spots. Developer Scott Stiteler also has plans to renovate what he is calling “Corbett Lane,” the street to the south of the building with lights and planters.

The second and third phases include a new $180 million 10-story hotel and 15-story apartment complex to be developed by Stiteler.

“There isn’t anyone with that kind of scale contributing to downtown right now,” said Fletcher McCusker, Rio Nuevo board chairman.

The board agreed to a lease that takes advantage of tax incentives, including tax rebate of approximately $5 million and a  $500,000 cash contribution to launch the first phase.

Rio Nuevo also approved spending $125,000 for “pop-up” retail areas in the vacant Rialto Block properties at East Congress Street and North 5th Avenue. Up to 150 small retail operators will be able to lease space as small as 100 square feet, to allow emerging online businesses to use a brick-and-mortar store, as well as giving local retailers an opportunity to move into Downtown with less commitment.

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The board also got a presentation about a new Downtown restaurant called "TABU." Developers Zeus Sainz, Jesus Mario Ramirez and Paul Mendoza are looking to create a "mystical and exciting environment," inspired by their trips to Mexico. With a $1 million remodel budget for the former space adjacent to the Chicago Store at 128 E. Congress St., Rio Nuevo agreed to invest $300,000 to accelerate the opening of the new Latin-fusion venue.

After a two-year delay because of the pandemic, the board approved spending up to $500,000 to initiate a public spaces improvement plan for the El Presidio District. The goal is to beautify the Downtown block, using planters, local art, and seating. 

Rio Nuevo plans to re-engage the project's original stakeholder groups and Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility to see how quickly the projects can begin.

McCusker presented a six-month trial plan to pay for two valet parking stations Downtown. Valet services will cost $6 per car. Revenues would offset the costs of staffing the valet stations, which will be located at North 7th Avenue and East Toole Avenue, as well as at 5th Avenue and Broadway. 

Additionally, the board voted to solicit private-sector proposals to develop the "Country Home block" on the south side of Broadway, within the Sunshine Mile.

The scope of work will be posted on the Rio Nuevo website.

The board also approved spending $125,000 to be the title sponsor for the 2022 Dusk Festival, a November music and art program Downtown that generates more than $12 million per year.

The board ended the meeting by agreeing to spend an additional $100,000 on building a rooftop bar at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, a project approved almost a year ago but became delayed due to rising construction costs.

Rio Nuevo was approved by voters in 1999 and is paid for with a cut of sales taxes generated above 1999 levels within a "tax increment financing district." The district runs along Broadway from the West Side, through Downtown to Park Mall.

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Rio Nuevo

An artist's rendering of a revamped Corbett Building, which is one of several project approved by the board of the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District.