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Guest Commentary

Businesses, groups along the streetcar route are teaming up to make this a summer to remember

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Martha Retallick ("We Should View Streetcar Construction as a Unique Opportunity," Mailbag, June 14) has some great ideas about events and unique activities that would dovetail nicely into what people have been doing and are planning for the upcoming months in downtown.

As the fences were being erected on Congress Street, an ad hoc committee of some incredibly creative people, downtown business owners and the Downtown Tucson Partnership was formed to encourage Tucsonans to enjoy downtown during the construction for the modern streetcar.

The committee brainstormed a wide range of ideas to deal with the fences, including rotating photo displays, using rope lights to create movable art, and putting up temporary screens and projecting movies on the fences. While there were initially concerns about putting anything on the fences, we're hopeful that we'll be able to overcome these challenges and carry out future projects, and we're pleased to see that some independent "guerilla" artists have been brightening up the chain link.

Other ideas included creating a Streetcar Promenade, "Olympic" games along the corridor, street mud-wrestling, a competition for the best or most creative art made with recycled construction materials, holding block parties using the buckets on front-end loaders as beer coolers, construction fashion shows and construction games.

Of course, we don't have the resources to carry out every event, but we are determined to make this an unforgettable summer downtown. So, the Downtown Tucson Partnership started a series of events—some on our own, some with partners such as the Living Streets Alliance, the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association and Main Gate Square—to take advantage of the unique opportunity described by Ms. Retallick.

For example, the Bike-In Movie and Fashion Event on June 16 drew more than 150 people to the streetcar corridor, despite a monsoon storm threatening to drench the cyclists. It was a fun and interesting way to explore the bicycle as a part of everyday living. We also hosted weekly walking tours of the past and present of retail in downtown, and launched a monthly Antique Fair and Vintage Gala at the Old Pueblo Garage, 41 E. Congress St.

Additionally, downtown merchants came together to start a construction treasure hunt, Diggin' It Downtown. The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association came up with innovative promotions, such as contests to win an iPad and construction-worker discount cards to wacky events—all encouraging people to support local businesses. Main Gate Square certainly isn't taking the summer off, and is continuing its great jazz concerts.

The Downtown Tucson Partnership is continuing to work with merchants, artists and others to create a series of events that will make this summer the most fun anybody has ever had along the streetcar route. We welcome all comments and suggestions from everybody who has a creative or fun idea. Please contact us if you have a concept or suggestion for a great way to celebrate summer downtown, or if you're planning your own event!

This is truly an unprecedented time in Tucson. Bring the family downtown this August for a children's bike ride at the Children's Museum Tucson. Join us for the great urban street party that is 2nd Saturdays. Follow @Downtown_Tucson on Twitter to be the first to hear about our plans for big parties on top of downtown's tallest buildings. You can check out a full calendar of dozens of downtown events at downtowntucson.org.

Please, support your local businesses downtown and across the streetcar corridor. It's still easy to get downtown, and parking is plentiful, with more than 15,000 parking spots. Find out more about the world-class restaurants and unique retail downtown at downtowntucson.org.

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