City official to spell out Rio Nuevo plans

Posted: Updated:

Tucsonans have been paying a special tax for Rio Nuevo for ten years, so just what is there to show for the millions of dollars spent? The city has spent $77 million so far, and now the City Manager is working to justify the amount of time it's taken to get anything done.

One day, people hope to see a full-scale development that would include homes, commercial retail businesses and restaurants. The problem is not what has been done, but what has not been done so far.

The Mercado Commercial and Housing Project on Tucson's west side is a public and private partnership that's a small part of the progress people can see with the naked eye of the Rio Nuevo District. Vera Pfeuffer lives in one of the brand new homes in the neighborhood.

"We are at the birthplace of Tucson," Pfeuffer says. "We like being plopped right here, surrounded by Menlo Park and "A" Mountain and downtown, and all of the things we expect Rio Nuevo to bring us someday."

Pfeuffer is optimistic about the Rio Nuevo Project, but for everyone like her, there's someone with a different mindset. "It just keeps stalling, stalling, stalling, and then it goes nowhere," says Tonia Drager.

On Wednesday, August 6, Tucson City Manager Mike Hein will present plans to the Mayor and Council outlining details of how the city should allocate the $581 million Rio Nuevo dollars. Councilmember Karen Uhlich says, "The importance of Wednesday is that it's a really comprehensive two-hour presentation, and it's important for the public to have that kind of overview."

That overview will include everything from the big picture, down to the specifics of how much has gone toward projects such as the Fox Theater, The Depot Plaza and the Presidio Wall - just a few of the other visible Rio Nuevo Projects.

It's a transparency that hasn't always existed. "The public has a right to know how every dime of this money is coming and being spent," says Uhlich.

As for the money that has been spent, optimists such as Pfeuffer can only preach patience. "We want to see it all become Disneyland tomorrow, but it's not going to," she says. "And you know, we joke about wanting to see it all happen before we're too old to appreciate it."

Hein's presentation will be at the City Council study session at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 6.