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'Thrive in the 05'-inspired initiative coming to Tucson's 29th Street

'Thrive in the 05'-inspired initiative coming to Tucson's 29th Street

  • The boundaries for the expansion of the city's 'Thrive in the 05' initiative. The expansion is a four-year plan to improve the East 29th Street Corridor.
    Tucson Department of Housing and Community Development The boundaries for the expansion of the city's 'Thrive in the 05' initiative. The expansion is a four-year plan to improve the East 29th Street Corridor.

A plan to improve an area along East 29th Street was approved by the Tucson City Council as an offshoot of a four-year-old initiative to revitalize part of the 85705 ZIP code.

The planned improvements for 1.5 miles between South Alvernon Way and South Craycroft Road are based on the “Thrive in the 05” initiative launched in 2018. The original projects included crime reduction, while those in the newly selected area have yet to be determined.

While not exactly the same, the 29th Street expansion approved last month will resemble the original program with collaboration between local organizations, government and neighborhoods, said Ernesto Portillo, spokesman for Tucson’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

“But it will be somewhat similar,” he said. “But certainly the concept, the spirit and the intentions are pretty much alike that we’re doing in the 05.”

Three areas were considered for the expansion, but the 29th Street stretch was selected due to data showing that “social stress indicators” are slightly higher there than in other areas. Nearly 30 percent of households in the selected area were living in poverty as of 2019, according to the Thrive Vulnerability Index.

The project will be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law last spring. $3.4 million has been budgeted for the four-year undertaking, Portillo wrote via email.

A steering committee will be created in the first year that includes city and community officials,  according to a memorandum from the June 7 City Council meeting. In the same year, data will be gathered on things such as crime, transportation and housing in the area. Potential projects will come into form in the second year and will be implemented in the last two years, Portillo said.

The specific programs and projects for the area will not be determined until the city meets with stakeholders. While Portillo has met with individuals from the 29th Street Coalition, there has been no formal community meeting yet, he said.

“We've reached out to the community, we've asked them for their support as we move along,” Portillo said.“But so far, everything is coming from here, right now, until we get our steering committee, until we get community directly involved in the planning. We’re just starting.”

Bernadette Rosthenhausler, principal at Roberts Naylor K-8 and a member of the 29th Street Coalition, is hopeful that the people hired for the Thrive expansion understand the area.

“Do they understand that we have a large refugee population?” she asked. “Do they understand that we have many different languages that are spoken within the community?”

Rosthenhausler is unsure if past projects like those on the South Side, where she's from, received the necessary community input. The vagueness around the expansion concerns her. This concern and her desire to advocate for people in the area led her to join the initiative’s steering committee, she said.

The steering committee is set to meet next Tuesday.

The original “Thrive in the 05” initiative focuses on North Oracle Road and West Miracle Mile. Its projects include restoring the Tucson Inn sign, planting trees along streets in the area and improvements to the Blue Moon community garden. Also planned are renovations to Tucson House, which has over 400 low-income apartments.

Other programs in the "05" undertaking include providing economic education to area residents through Pima Community College and reducing crime via the Community-Based Crime Reduction program. The CBCR program, from Arizona State University, is “data-driven” with a focus on high crime areas in communities.

It’s too early to know if the CBCR program will also expand to the East 29th Street area, where planning will occur “hand-in-hand with the community,” Portillo said. “We don't know if we'll do that in the 29th Street area,” he said. “That depends on if we can get a grant, depends if we can get a partner like ASU.”

There are currently no plans to expand the Thrive initiative beyond these two target areas, Portillo said.

Rosthenhausler is hopeful for the progress a potential collaborative effort could bring to the East 29th Street Corridor.

“The 29th Corridor is a hidden gem with a lot of amazing people,” she said. “And I think that if we can come together as a community, we can help beautify, create resources, and help elevate our community and our students.”       

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