Local developer Don Bourn has unveiled a new vision for downtown Tucson: A first-of-its-kind food hall featuring a number of local chefs under one roof.
City Park, detailed in a quarterly report to the Rio Nuevo Board, would include approximately 15 retail and restaurant vendors in dedicated kiosks with shared seating. The food hall would be on the first floor of a five-story building proposed for an empty lot on Congress Street between Scott and Stone avenues.
On the second floor, Bourn wants to build a bowling alley as well as several rooms that could be rented out for everything from children’s birthday parties to themed karaoke nights.
The third and fourth floors would be office space, with the fifth floor offering space for flexible uses and a rooftop patio.
Bourn says the glass and concrete building he plans is a bold design, and he hopes it joins a list of buildings in downtown Tucson that remain iconic for years to come.
“We are going to take a leap,” Bourn said.
Rio Nuevo Chairman Fletcher McCusker is supportive and glad Bourn’s latest revision has shifted toward office space. “It is less risky than housing,” he said.
He supports the new food hall concept, but says getting the right tenants in place with signed leases could be a difficult task. “The foodie scene sets a high bar,” McCusker said.
Bourn said he is working with a number of local restaurants, but declined to name any specific businesses.
The Rio Nuevo board agreed earlier this year to give Bourn a $2.6 million loan to help complete financing for his long-stalled project.
Born bought the entire block from the city for $100 in 2004.
His plan, originally known as the Thrifty Block, was one of the original projects for Rio Nuevo, the downtown revitalization district. Various options have been presented over the years but never built due to lack of financing, made worse by the recession.
McCusker said Rio Nuevo was happy to back the project, but the loan will only be issued once Bourn has secured financing.
“We will be the last in,” he said.
Bourn said he is in advanced talks with a local bank.
He told the board earlier this summer that he is negotiating a $9.4 million bank loan and has $5 million of equity.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik said Bourn has invested his own money to ensure the success of City Park.
“Rio Nuevo did the right thing in working with Don on this, and also in setting a hard deadline for completion. With all the successes we’re seeing in the downtown core, getting City Park up and running in what has for too long been just a vacant lot would be another win. He’s controlling his own fate now under the reality of losing his investment if he doesn’t perform,” Kozachik said.
Bourn expects to break ground early next year.