Rothschild expands on vision for Tucson’s future - Inside Tucson Business: News

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Rothschild expands on vision for Tucson’s future

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Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 12:00 pm

Following up on his “180 Day” plan, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild unveiled a vision for his next 360 days in office.

“The difference between this and 180 is, I believe, it’s much more ambitious,” Rothschild said July 13.

The 360 Plan, as the mayor has called it, continues on the themes of the previous plan, including strengthening the local economy, community ties, better city services and the natural environment.

“To have a strong community, you have to have a strong economy,” Rothschild said.

To that end, the mayor said the city has to encourage entrepreneurship, recruit and retain employers and support increased railway construction in Southern Arizona.

“I think the money is in rail,” Rothschild said.

The mayor said he would support the city seeking federal funding to study the plausibility of new passenger lines connecting Tucson with the Phoenix area.

Federal funding also could be available to pay for construction of a rail line, particularly a high-speed line connecting Tucson and Phoenix.

That, according to Rothschild, likely would spur considerable private investment in development along the route.

Renewed interest in connecting Southern Arizona by rail to a deep-water port Guaymas, Sonora, could in turn strengthen the region’s position as a logistics hub.

He also said the city could look to eventually connect the modern streetcar, Sun Link, to Tucson International Airport, similar to what Salt Lake City did with its rail system.

More annexations into the city also factor into Rothschild’s plan. He said the city needs to look toward expanding to help capture more state-shared revenue funding. The state government redistributes revenues collected from income, sales and vehicle-license taxes to local governments using a per capita population formula that benefits incorporated municipalities over unincorporated areas.

Tucson officials already have begun work on a map, at the mayor’s request, that would identify regions of possible city annexation efforts. Rothschild said he wanted to target regions for annexation that would hold the most revenue possible for the city, whether they are commercial or residential areas.

A more strategic approach to annexations would make for a departure from how Tucson has grown in the past.

“It really has been on a project-by-project basis,” Rothschild said, explaining that in the past property owners have generally contacted the city with proposals for annexations.

Downtown redevelopment was another area the mayor said he wants to see renewed city focus.

“I do not have a simple answer for the Tucson Convention Center and arena,” Rothschild said, adding that he sees the need for a combination of public and private investments.

Working on that front, Rothschild said the city would likely seek to open lines of communication with downtown property owners Humberto Lopez and Allan Norville.

Lopez owns the now-closed Hotel Arizona, 181 W. Broadway, and has in the past made overtures to the city to enter public-private partnerships to renovate the aged property.

Norville owns a strategic trio of parcels between the Tucson Convention Center and city-owned properties that face Interstate 10.

As the city’s representative, Rothschild also intends to re-engage the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District board, with whom the city leaders have had strained relations over the past year or more.

Other markers the mayor laid out include expanding the economic districts around the airport, Tucson’s Inland Port and the University of Arizona Tech Park.

The plan also calls for looking further south to the international border, to strengthen the region’s ties to Mexico.

“This plan sets out ambitious goals,” Rothschild said. “It’s our choice as a community how to get this done.”

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at pmcnamara@azbiz.com or (520) 295-4259.

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