Downtown Links Update Letter

April 12, 2013

Project Update April 2013

Phase II: St. Mary’s Road/6th Street, I-10 to Church Avenue Roadway Improvements.  The re-construction of St. Mary’s Road began in November 2012 and is still on schedule for completion in January 2014. Access has been reduced to one lane in each direction, plus a turn lane.  However, there will be some major disruptions and detours starting this weekend which will last through the end of May due to the installation of a 90-inch storm drain that will run parallel under St. Mary’s and connecting to the Tucson Arroyo. Two separate closures will occur soon:

  •  The St. Mary’s/Granada intersection will be closed to north-south thru traffic starting at 6am Thursday, April 4th and will be re-opened at 6am on Monday, April 8th. Northbound traffic will be able to turn east or west on St. Mary’s. One lane of east-west travel will be maintained, but we encourage everyone to avoid this intersection, if possible.
  •  St. Mary’s Road from Granada to Church will be fully closed starting on Friday, April 19th and will re-open in late May (or sooner) once the 90-inch storm drain installation is complete. East-west traffic will be diverted to other major roadways, and use of local streets will be discouraged with signage and barricades. Business, residential and emergency access will be maintained at all times.

6th Avenue Two-way Conversion: Drachman to 7th Street

The 6th Ave/6th Street signal design is almost complete and will go to construction in the summer along with the two-way conversion of 6th Avenue all the way north to Drachman. It is important that these two projects be done at the same time to save money and make the conversion all at once for public convenience and understanding. TDOT will also be making the permanent signal upgrades along 6th Avenue between Toole Avenue and Broadway in the coming months, and the two-way traffic lanes will remain in place. 6th Avenue will be fully converted to two-way traffic from one end to the other by the end of this year.

downtown links

Phase III: 6th Street Underpass to Broadway Boulevard

Final design of this segment continues and the HDR Inc. design team is currently working through the RTA Value Analysis Proposal vetting process, preparing structural design reports for major bridges along the corridor, and recompiling the 30% design plans. These issues were shared at the last CAC meeting at which time two subcommittees were formed to help make some key decisions.

The RTA Value Analysis Subcommittee, led by John Burr, has met on two occasions with the design team to review dozens of small and large proposals to find cost savings through alternative design changes. The subcommittee’s recommendations to date are mostly in line with those of TDOT, minus a few issues that need to be vetted further. John can provide a summary of the subcommittee’s findings at the next CAC meeting.

The Deck Park Subcommittee, led by Daniela Diamente, has met on two occasions to discuss the future purpose, size, and features of the 9th Avenue deck park that will be constructed during Phase III. At least two more subcommittee meetings are planned to provide clear direction to the design team in order to move forward with final design. The next subcommittee meeting will be held at 10am on Monday, April 15th at the Wheat-Scharf Landscape Design office at 442 N. 6th Avenue. An official public notice will be sent out the prior week.

Other design efforts include meetings with Union Pacific on the design of the 6th Street/UPRR grade separation structure and future quiet zone improvements, environmental review, soils testing, drainage analyses, meetings with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) officials, and miscellaneous information gathering. Our goal is to reach 75% design completion by the end of August so that we can stay on schedule.

Property Acquisitions

The City is also moving forward with property acquisitions and demolitions in preparation for Phase III construction in the next few years.  The Lucky Street warehouse along 9th Avenue was removed last December, and the Stone Transmission building is scheduled for demolition in the next few months once City staff finalizes the scope of work. Other properties will not be acquired and demolished until late 2013 or early to mid-2014. Once buildings are removed, we are carefully fencing properties and providing firm gravel surfaces for continued public use as needed. This is also necessary to reduce dust and prevent illegal dumping of debris on the premises which has occurred in the past. The City Real Estate staff will provide an updated property acquisition plan by May so that we have a clear strategy for next steps.

Historic Preservation

There have been recent questions and concerns about historic preservation efforts along the Downtown Links corridor. Carlos Lozano and I recently toured the Stone Transmission warehouse with other City staff to examine some of the structural features prior to demolition. We also discussed other buildings along the corridor which could have historic features and materials worth salvaging for future integration into the project. Carlos has some good ideas which should be further discussed at the next CAC meeting.

In March, City staff also met with officials from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to review the entire Downtown Links planning effort and do an on-site tour. They gave us some clear direction on a number of pending issues, which we will share at the next CAC meeting. Jonathan Mabry, the City’s Historic Preservation Officer, is leading the coordination efforts with SHPO and can provide a detailed summary of the meeting as well as future requirements.

Land Use Planning

The Downtown Links Urban Overlay District is being integrated into the future Modern Streetcar Urban Overlay District (UOD) to ensure compatibility where the two overlap. A series of public meetings were held in February to address a variety of issues such as development densities, mix of uses, architectural styles, parking, and compatibility with existing neighborhoods. We anticipate that the Streetcar UOD for the 4th Avenue area will be the first segment approved by Mayor and Council in the summer, which will lead to the adoption of the Downtown Links UOD.

Professor Linda Samuels from the University of Arizona Drachman Institute is leading a graduate student design team to evaluate downtown redevelopment opportunities. This includes a close evaluation of the Downtown Links corridor plans and related studies over the last few decades. Linda and her students have hosted a few presentations to generate new ideas for downtown revitalization which may not have been considered in prior activities. The focus is on creating “sustainable cities” by using innovative design and development solutions from other cities around the world. A final student presentation will be held in May. To learn more, go to www.sustainablecityproject.com  or email Linda at lcsamuels@email.arizona.edu