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High Rise on the Horizon

Fourth Avenue’s first residential tower is well on its way

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A high rise apartment building on Fourth Avenue is closer to sealing the deal after the Tucson City Council unanimously approved the development at their April 17 meeting. Maloney's Tavern and the two buildings behind it will be demolished to make way for the controversial development.

The front of the building will be 30 feet high, consistent with other buildings on the avenue. It will be terraced and could reach as high as 14 stories at 200 feet back from the avenue.

"This could turn out to be a very feasible development and add some character on Fourth Avenue instead of broken up dirt parking lot for 200 feet," said Thomas Warne, a representative for the property owners, Partners on Fourth Investments, at the council meeting.

The building will have four storefront spaces of about 1,000 square feet each. Warne said the retail would "probably, most likely" be rented to local businesses.

A number of downtown merchants are concerned about what the development will do to the feel of Fourth Avenue and the precedent it sets. The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association has been pushing developers on Fourth Avenue to stick to local businesses.

"Fourth Avenue is the epicenter of this community," said FAMA Executive Director Fred Ronstadt. "It is the heartbeat of Tucson, and it's the soul of the Old Pueblo."

Joe Audino, an admin on the Facebook group Save Fourth Avenue, which started in response to this development proposal and others like it, said he's in support of developments that create more housing options, but Fourth Avenue is not the place for it.

"This isn't some not-my-back-yard concern, where it's only people who live around Fourth that are gonna feel the impact from this," he said. "What I'm not fine with is modifications to a thriving, existing district that is of cultural relevance. It has local businesses that bring terrific economic impact."

And although Partners on Fourth Investments said it will focus on local businesses, that is not in their contract, although some other measures are.

The council—minus Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who recused himself because of conflicts of interest and Councilmember Regina Romero, who was absent—approved the new development given that a number of provisions were locked into the deal.

One provision was that the development spends $35,000 for speed bumps, roundabouts and other traffic control measures to the east and west of the development.

The development will also charge tenants for parking spaces, and offer Zipcar car sharing so residents have less need for owning a car. The development will allocate 35 parking spots for retail shoppers. And in the advent that new businesses and technologies make the car-free lifestyle more appealing, the development will dedicate additional parking spots, "which go unrented," to the public.

Also, the apartments will be priced at market rate, and the "group dwelling" designation used by student housing complexes is prohibited. Rooftop amenities will shut down at 10 p.m. And as far as balcony parties, Warne said he hopes there will be mature residents who won't cause noise disruptions.

Mark Irvin, vice chair and secretary for the Rio Nuevo Board, spoke in favor of the development, saying that recent Tucson additions such Caterpillar Inc. and Hexagon Mining have generated a downtown housing demand.

"There's a big need for people to have urban housing in and around our downtown area, just like it's provided in places like Austin, Portland, Seattle, Denver, etc.," he said. "I understand that in this new ... development, both housing and retail parking are not only being adequately addressed but even more so."

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