South Tucson looking to expand Central Business District

Expansion would open up incentives for redevelopment

The South Tucson City Council approved a measure to adopt the staff-recommended expansion of its Central Business District, or CBD, and prepare a formal resolution for the mayor and council to vote on July 8.

This expansion opens up the possibility for tax-abatement partnerships between the city and developers through the use of incentivizing tools such as the Government Property Lease Excise Tax, or GPLET, and the recently introduced federal opportunity zones. It adds 216 acres of property to the current CBD, which is approximately 41 acres, and includes 4th, 5th and 6th avenues from I-10 to 25th Street.

Map illustrating the proposed expansion area.

Benny Young, an employee of Pima County, attended the meeting and urged the Mayor and Council to adopt the recommended expansion. Young said the expansion would be in-line with the City of Tucson’s plans to expand its own CBD.

“We are in agreement with Mr. Young,” South Tucson City Manager John Viduarri said.

Councilwoman Rita Rogers pushed back on adopting the expansion and moved to table the decision to a later date, she did not receive a second on her motion.

Prior to that, Rogers had suggested including the property where the Arizona Children’s Home used to be located and pointed out the current property owner, Ernie Medina, in attendance at the meeting.

Now known as Mi Casita, a senior living center, the former home of Arizona Children’s Association was embroiled in controversy in 2016 when the property was purchased by Pasadera Behavioral Health Network who planned to open a residential substance-abuse treatment facility at the site, but never did.

Medina said Mi Casita, a for-profit business, wants to support the city through tax-revenue generation and that he is interested in the property becoming part of the expanded CBD.

Councilman Paul Diaz also wanted to include an area along 29th Street where he said ten vacant lots, if included in the CBD, might be prime for development.

“Staff would highly recommend going through approval tonight,” Vidaurri said. He indicated city staff had already considered inclusion of the Mi Casita property and didn’t feel it was appropriate at this time.

The council moved to consider the unincluded areas at a future meeting, perhaps in the form of a public hearing. However, state law requires “a one-year cooling off period” after a CBD is expanded, so the earliest the unincluded properties might be added would be a year from now, if the council adopts the formal expansion resolution on July 8.

On another note, a public hearing on the proposed sales tax increase is slated for next Monday, July 1.