Arizona: Adaptive Reuse at Centre of Tucson Redevelopment

Tucson, Arizona is at heart of an adaptive reuse project to create business space while ensuring sustainable development and historic preservation. (Image: Zereshk. Dowtown Tucson, Arizona skyline)

The city of Tucson, Arizona has embarked on an exciting project which, in our opinion, cities everywhere should take notice of. The adaptive reuse initiative aims to repurpose abandoned and vacant buildings in the city in a bid to get businesses into existing structures. The move will advantage developers, agents and business owners through the waiving of some fees, while ensuring sustainable development and the preservation of Tucson’s historic buildings.

According to Marana News: “The 24-month pilot program, focused on the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, uses existing code relief tools. Both during and after, the program assesses the effectiveness of the projects and whether additional code changes or other tools are needed. Metrics of success include number of jobs created, city revenues generated and reuse or recycling of materials.”

Tucson's restored Fox Tucson Theatre in the city's downtown. (Image: Google Street View. The restored Fox Tucson Theatre in downtown Tucson)

City of Tucson Historic Preservation Officer Jonathan Mabry told the newspaper that the adaptive reuse project would achieve historic preservation – by breathing new life into neglected older structures – and create sustainability through the recycling of whole buildings.

Mabry said: “This program will make it easier to get new businesses into old buildings,” adding that he expected the pilot project to kick off other adaptive reuse projects across the city. All being well, the ‘Adaptive Reuse Program’ will save developers time and money while boosting the economy through job creation and a proliferation of construction projects.

(Image: US Dept of Interior. Tucson Courthouse in 1898)

Marana News reports: The “Older, Smaller, Better in Tucson” study by the Preservation Green Lab in 2016 found the measurable benefits of urban fabric composed predominately by older buildings or mixed-vintage buildings to include real estate performance, higher densities of businesses and jobs, higher rates of startups and locally owned businesses, more inclusive business activity that is more diverse, and more resilient during economic downturns.”

We’re big fans of adaptive reuse at Urban Ghosts, both from an environmental and sustainability perspective, but also because of the emphasis the process places on historic preservation. Not only does the repurposing of heritage buildings anchor a city to its past while maintaining positive modern development, it also makes urban areas more interesting, as buildings that have played an important role in the community’s history are not simply swept aside.

You can find out more about Local First Arizona, which has worked hard over the past decade to advocate adaptive reuse, sustainability and localism, here.