Downtown Renaissance

Over the past nine years, Downtown Tucson has experienced a miraculous economic revitalization with unprecedented levels of investment, hundreds of new businesses, and thousands of new jobs resulting in a thriving Downtown environment. Geographically located in the heart of the city, Downtown Tucson has transformed itself from a government center to the region’s entertainment hub. There is an increasing variety of restaurants, nightlife and cultural arts venues, and scores of major events that attract more than a million people annually.

Since 2008, Downtown business has shown steady growth and diversification. Commercial investments have led to new construction and renovations to a number of historic buildings, creating unique spaces for street-level businesses and office-based firms. New construction, primarily located near the Sun Link modern streetcar line, has re-established Downtown as a magnet for real estate development, and has been a major contributor to Tucson’s economy.

Rio Nuevo

Rio Nuevo Multi Facilities District is a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district formed to utilize a portion of state sales tax dollars to revitalize Tucson’s downtown core.  The District mission is to partner with the private sector to build the vital components of a vibrant downtown.  Downtown Tucson is now considered one of the most successful  urban environments in the country, home to 65 new restaurants, a remodeled arena, busy concert venues, revitalized theaters, modern light rail, and corporate headquarters like Unisource Energy, Madden Media, Sinfonia Healthcare, Samsung’s SmartThings and Caterpillar.  2,200 new housing units are being built in downtown Tucson connected to urban living through the new Modern Streetcar. The State of Arizona recently extended the TIF to 2035 giving the Rio Nuevo Board more time and surety to make significant and critical investments in downtown.


There are more than 2,000 employers accounting for 30,000 people working in the Downtown Economic Reporting District. The largest employment sectors were: services (56.6%), government (34.12% of employees), health care (27.96%), retail (6.64%), finance, banking, and real estate (6.41%), eating and drinking establishments (3.97%), and utility (3.48%) Source: Dunn & Bradstreet, 2015.


Over the past eight years, there has been $439 million in private investment and $541 million in public investment in Downtown (Downtown Tucson Partnership, 2015). More recently, eight projects totaling $34.5 million were completed  (Downtown Tucson Partnership, 2017).

Current projects include a list of 17 projects that total $305 million in capital investment, 530 housing units and 428,500 sq.ft of new commercial space. The largest of those projects is the new headquarters for Caterpillar's Surface Mining & Technology Division. That building is projected to be completed in Spring 2019. Proposed projects include a 20-story, $110 million mixed-use building that will be home to retail, parking and Class A office space.

Office Space

The future of office space will be driven by demographic changes within the workforce. The traditional compartmentalized office layout is being augmented by coworking models that seek to promote collaboration and creativity through open floor plans, shared community space, and creative office designs. Downtown is currently home to four coworking spaces: Connect Coworking, Rail YardRegus Downtown Tucson, and Xerocraft Hackerspace.

Corporate Headquarters and Business Projects:

  • UniSource Energy, parent of Tucson Electric Power, opened its new, nine story corporate headquarters in December 2011. View a time lapse of the complete construction.
  • Caterpillar Surface Mining & Technology headquarters will be completed in Spring 2019.
  • Providence Services Corp. a Tucson-based national provider of behavioral and education services, moves corporate headquarters downtown to 64 E. Broadway.
  • Providence also acquires 44 E. Broadway and begins massive renovations.
  • The Sonoran Institute moves corporate headquarters downtown to 44 E. Broadway.
  • University of Arizona launches Downtown campus for College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture in restored Roy Place building.
  • National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona is established downtown at 64 E. Broadway.
  • Renovations to the MacArthur Building were completed and Madden Media located their headquarters.
  • MEB acquired, renovated and moved into the Hittinger Building on Congress.
View a map of current and planned projects in Downtown.

Retail Space

Compared to Tucson as a whole, Downtown is a very unique market; there are no suburban-styled malls, strip malls, or department stores, and much of the retail space is located within restored historic buildings. Congress Street is the primary retail corridor with a significant number of restaurants, bars, and shops, but many storefronts also exist on secondary streets and Broadway Boulevard, Pennington Street, and 6th Avenue.

The retail market Downtown accounts for nearly 1,900,000 SF of storefront space. In Q4 2017, PICOR produced a retail report focusing on Downtown vacancy rates, concluding that retail vacancy was down to 5.5% (PICOR, 2017).

The diverse eateries in Downtown are some of the best dining options in Tucson. Downtown bars and clubs receive top reviews for their creative cocktail combinations and have been featured in national publications like The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. High quality establishments have made Downtown a popular destination, resulting in a high demand for retail space. New retail space will be incorporated in the ground floor of the new AC Marriott and One West Broadway, along with other proposed projects along Congress Street, Broadway Blvd., 6th Avenue, and in the Mercado District to meet the demand.

Downtown is the place to be for the arts, cultural attractions, live music performances, and special events in southern Arizona. Its central location, accessibility, and diverse transportation offerings make it a popular location for a variety of daily events along with festivals and major special events. (Photo: Peach Properties)

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Downtown is the cultural center for Tucson, with seven museums, six theaters, and a thriving art and music scene. Cultural arts venues Downtown host performances by the local symphony, ballet, theater, and opera companies. There are approximately 120 artists with studios located in historic warehouses throughout the Warehouse Arts District. The recently restored Rialto and Fox theaters attract performers from around the world. Together, the two theaters account for significant annual economic impact Downtown. According to AZ Economic Research, The Fox Tucson Theatre (17 W Congress) alone brings in $3.4 million in direct spending to Downtown (AZ Economic Research, 2012), while the Rialto Theatre (318 E Congress), known for the variety of shows it hosts, has been rated as a top US venue (Pollstar, 2015). The historic Hotel Congress (311 E Congress) continues to be a favorite destination for music; its Club Congress has been called “one of the 10 best rock clubs in the United States” (LA Times, 2010).

Eighteen nightlife venues have opened Downtown since 2008, with each new business bringing a new level of excitement to Congress Street. Artful Living, Constant Con, Moen Mason Gallery, and Xpanded Universe are just a few of the businesses focused on arts, culture, and entertainment that opened their doors in 2015. The diversity and concentration of Downtown entertainment provides a perpetual influx of people into Downtown.

Tucson Streetcar

The Tucson Streetcar is a 3.9 mile route connecting major activity centers including The University of Arizona, Arizona Health Sciences Center, University Main Gate Business District, 4th Avenue Business District, Congress Street Shopping and Entertainment District, and the Mercado District. Approximately 100,000 people live and work within a half mile of the route.

Special Events and Tourism

There are more than 50 major events held annually Downtown, attracting more than one million visitors to the area. (Downtown Tucson Partnership, 2018). The nation’s largest gem and mineral show, the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, has an estimated economic impact of $120 million (FMR Associates, 2014). The majority of Downtown events reflect the unique sense of identity that defines Tucson. One example of a significant cultural event Downtown is the All Souls Procession, which attracts approximately 100,000 participants and spectators, while generating $17.5 million in economic impact (FMR Associates, 2013).

Retail, Arts and Cultural Projects

  • The Museum of Contemporary Art leased the old Fire Downtown Fire Station renovated it for their museum space.
  • One North Fifth’s new retail building was completed and is nearly fully occupied by Cricket, Yoga Oasis, Sacred Machines Gallery, and Xoom Juice.
  • A new plaza was built on Toole Ave. in front of Hotel Congress.
  • Both The Screening Room and Beowulf Alley Theatre façade renovation projects were completed and a new marquees added to the buildings.
  • Construction was completed on the new entrance to the Tucson Convention Center.
  • Construction of street improvements in front of the Julian Drew Building at Broadway and 5th Avenues were completed.
  • Fun and educational programming at the Children’s Museum Tucson.
  • The Carrillo Placita at St. Augustine Cathedral was completed.

Other Projects

Infrastructure and Government Projects

  • Scott Avenue Street improvements were completed between Broadway and 13th Street (on time and on budget).
  • The new 4th Avenue Underpass was completed and the Old Pueblo Trolley line was extended into Downtown.
  • Tucson Modern Streetcar project (see link in sidebar) gets FTA Grant Agreement for $63 million TIGER grant.
  • Construction of the Downtown portion Interstate 10 was completed.
  • The new Cushing Street Underpass, in accommodation for the Modern Street Car, was completed.
  • The new Tucson Fire Headquarters was completed and opened.

Residential Projects

  • One North Fifth’s building renovations was completed and its first tenants moved in
  • The new MLK Building, sitting on top of the Depot Plaza parking garage, has been completed

Parking Projects

  • The Depot Plaza underground parking garage is completed with 283 new spaces
  • Plaza Centro garage construction is completed, bringing an additional 400 spaces

Historic Restoration and Renovation Projects

  • Roy Place building restored to original 1928 facade
  • The 64 E Broadway façade renovation was completed
  • The Rialto Block façade renovation was completed

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