New Owners Have Lofty Goals For City’s Tallest Building

October 9, 2015

Tucson's tallest building has about 245,000 square feet of office space. ZFI Holdings intends to put a second tower next to it, possibly as tall as this one.

Tucson’s tallest building has about 245,000 square feet of office space. ZFI Holdings intends to put a second tower next to it, possibly as tall as this one.

by Brad Poole

Tucson’s tallest building is back in local hands, and the new owners of One South Church plan to expand with a second tower, possibly as tall as the first.

ZFI Holdings, which closed on the 23-story skyscraper last week, plans to put a high-end residential building with retail shops on the existing foundation next to the current tower at the corner of Church Avenue and Broadway Boulevard.

The foundation, now topped by several tile murals crafted by the non-profit Ben’s Bells, was part of the original construction job in 1986.

“The reason we went after it is simple – we believe in Downtown, and we believe in Tucson,” said Zach Fenton of ZFI.

High end housing would fill a need Downtown, said Roger Karber, whose Aerie Development will partner with Fenton on the project.

“Anyone who is involved Downtown knows there is a shortage of quality residential space,” he said.

New owner Zach Fenton of ZFI Holdings has plans for One South Church - literally and figuratively.

New owner Zach Fenton of ZFI Holdings has plans for One South Church – literally and figuratively.

Fenton plans to update the existing tower, which has dropped ceilings and lots of carpet throughout. He is tearing out the ceilings and flooring in one suite, leaving a more industrial feel with exposed duct work and polished concrete floors, to show prospective tenants what the spaces can be.

The 330-foot building, which used to house a local FBI office and the headquarters for Unisource Energy, the parent company of Tucson Electric Power, has roughly 245,000 square feet of office space. It’s about two-thirds full now, Fenton said.

There are no apartments in the tower. Major tenants include New York Life, which occupies the top floor, an engineering firm, and several law firms.

Having the foundation in place for a second building will make things significantly easier, because it eliminates the unknowns associated with breaking ground, Karber said.

“To have that out of the way really gives us a good wind at our back from the start,” he said.

Possibilities include a combination of retail shops, restaurants, apartments, condominiums and even hotel rooms in the new building, though it will primarily be residential, Karber said.

One South Church - the city's tallest building at 23 stories - is about two-thirds full. This ground floor suite off the lobby is available.

One South Church – the city’s tallest building at 23 stories – is about two-thirds full. This ground floor suite off the lobby is available.

One thing they will share, at least on upper floors, is unparalleled views of the Santa Cruz River valley. The current building features floor-to-ceiling windows facing in every direction.

The three-story underground parking garage will also get a face-lift, Fenton said.

Karber estimates three years will pass before tenants could move in – up to a year of design, then two years of construction. Aerie is developing a similarly scaled project in Tempe, and Karber plans to learn from that job and not rush the One South Church project.

The fate of the murals designed and installed by Tucson’s kindness ambassadors, Ben’s Bells, remains to be seen, but they will likely be saved.

“We’ll definitely try to salvage them,” Fenton said.

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