Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Rio Nuevo Based On A Mistake?

I’d like to suggest that it is. The mistake is a mixture of two things: A sentimental yearning for something that never quite existed in reality, and the failure to see that much of what we realistically expect of a downtown already exists.

This nostalgia for something that never was quite real is captured in this song by Petula Clark. Remember? A kind of fantasy land where all the good stuff was; lit by neon. My guess is that underlying our businesslike arguments for “development” is some similar emotional engine.

In the meantime we easily forget what is already there. Museums and galleries and the public library. The Symphony, Opera, a variety musicals, and performances at the Leo Rich. Theater? You bet: ATC, Beowulf Alley Theater, the Rogue Theatre upstairs at The Temple of Music and Art . At either end of Congress The Fox and The Rialto. Club Congress of course, although not for elderly ears.

It’s not likely that you’ll go hungry, either: Poca Cosa, The Cup Cafe, Barrio Grill, Maynards, El Minuto, and others that I can’t name. Fourth Avenue is alive and well and no more removed from the places I’ve named than some venues in Manhattan or Chicago’s Loop.

Finally, there’s more of Tucson’s great “downtown” actually spread all across the city, at its theaters, galleries and truly wonderful restaurants. Frankly I’m glad it isn’t all crammed into the handful of blocks in the old downtown area.

So... let’s build a new hotel and convention center, which I believe might actually be an important economic resource, get the trolley rolling... and then call it quits.


Mariana said...

I disagree. Without people living dowtown, the area is sad and unsafe. The galleries are open during business hours, while most of us are working. Where I come from, art galleries stay open till 9 pm, same for book stores, minimarts or fancy outlets. People feel safe walking around. This does not happen in Tucson. We need some residential buildings to bring life (and safety) to the area.

Art Jacobson said...


I certainly agree that people should be living downtown. However much of the Rio Nuevo program has centered on the establishment of tourist attractions rather than residential housing.

Thanks for your comment, let's hope for more.

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