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Editorial: Rio Nuevo is a new start for Tucson

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 22, 1999

Tucson's downtown area has been needing a kick in the pants for decades, and many are hoping that Rio Nuevo is it.

Rio Nuevo, a proposal that the City of Tucson has been working on for the better part of this year, would create a new tax district along East Broadway Boulevard, ending at Park Mall, to fund new developments downtown.

Financially, the plan is a way of getting funds to build public facilities without dipping into the taxpayers' pockets. The Legislature has allowed Phoenix to try this, and only recently has Tucson been allowed to use the technique as well.

It's not very often that Tucson or any community for that matter, gets a chance to build something like Rio Nuevo without asking taxpayers to pay for it. Rio Nuevo would be entirely funded by sales tax revenue that will more than likely skyrocket once Park and El Con Malls complete their renovations.

Rio Nuevo has been developing under the public eye for some time now and citizen groups have been formed to suggest ideas for the development. The City Council has argued the project out amongst itself and many changes have been made in the past few months.

Originally, the Rio Nuevo plan would have included a majority of retail space, but that was quickly changed into a more "cultural village" with costumed people running about.

However, that idea was rejected because it was offensive and culturally insensitive and the project as it stands now, would include a variety of museums and entertainment-oriented establishments such as an IMAX theater, a Sonoran Sea Aquarium, an expansion of the Tucson Children's Museum and a bigger Arizona Historical Society.

These would be educational places that would not only enhance downtown, but the city as a whole.

Rio Nuevo - while it may be a new development (and new developments are always frowned upon in this city) - has actually proven itself to be the embodiment of how a city council is supposed to work. Citizens are saying what they think and are actually being listened to.

Many are afraid that the development, which has been placed on the Nov. 2 ballot for voter approval, will do more damage than good. The City Council has said that the money used to build Rio Nuevo would not be taken away from any other public funding and that there are ways that the buildings could be built so as not to cause traffic disturbances in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Rio Nuevo is an excellent opportunity for Tucson to bring cultural and economic growth to the downtown area. Once we start bringing more tourists and Tucson citizens downtown, things will really start to perk up there and once the center has been improved, the rest of the city will benefit.

All one needs to do is drive along North Congress Street between Scott and Church to see how bad it's really getting down there.

Downtown Tucson needs something, and Rio Nuevo is it.

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