El Rio Celebrates Step Toward Downtown Expansion
November 12, 2015
by Mariana Colin
The largest provider of medical and dental services to low-income populations of Tucson is one step closer to achieving its goal of expanding into Downtown. El Rio Community Health Center, which meets the medical and dental needs of over 85,000 people annually, purchased the historic Manning House in 2013 for a relocation of a number of their administrative and non-patient related departments. The move, and a new building on site dubbed “Manning House 2”, will bring up to 250 employees to the new building in 2016.
Thursday marked the completion of the frame of the building, and a ceremony was held to celebrate the future it represents for El Rio. Construction of the building’s frame was capped off with the planting of a native tree on the property, a symbol of new life, appropriate for an organization whose mission is to keep healthcare as affordable and accessible as possible to the Tucsonans who need it.
“I’m really proud of the years of existence El Rio has had in the community because it’s so important to health care,” said Councilmember Richard Fimbres in his speech at the ceremony.
Later, he pointed out the economic possibilities for Downtown that the new El Rio center represents.
“You’re mixing history with today’s present times,” he says. “You have a historical center here that dates back to the 1800’s and you have a great health care facility coming in with over 200 employees, and that’s going to be a great shot in the arm for Downtown.”
Fimbres points out that those employees will help Downtown’s ongoing revitalization project simply by needing somewhere to eat lunch and places to go after work, “generating dollars to sustain us as a city and as a community.”
El Rio looks forward to the new building as well as their space within the Manning House, which the organization sees as an opportunity to support the preservation of the Tucson landmark. In addition to their many community outreach projects, the El Rio Foundation (which will soon be housed in the new building) is raising funds pay for the Manning House’s preservation.
Architect Frank Mascia sees the El Rio project as a symbol for how far the health center has come since its beginning. “45 years ago I was a recent graduate and El Rio was a rumor in the newspapers,” he says. “My career is 45 years old and El Rio is 45.”
Having watched the organization grow to the prominence it has today, he says, makes his work on the Manning House and Manning House 2 project that much more memorable. “To be here after that length of time, to be in front of this crowd, at this project, is an incredible honor for us personally. It’s phenomenal to watch a local Tucson organization fill a need the way that El Rio has.”