The hum of construction equipment serves as background noise most afternoons as people visit Mercado San Agustin or the MSA Annex. The sound of a construction project in the works is nothing new for people who have lived just west of Interstate 10 near Congress Street or who frequent the area for shopping and dining. Since 2008, the Gadsden Company has been developing the Mercado District on what was once barren land on the growing west end of downtown Tucson.
Adam Weinstein and his wife Kira Dixon-Weinstein moved from New York City to Tucson in 2006 and formed the Gadsden Company with Dixon-Weinstein’s father, Jerry Dixon. The family created the company with a long-term vision to develop a dynamic district on the west end of downtown.
As their projects have come to fruition, the Weinsteins have followed their path, despite sometimes having to change their plans, put projects on hold and be patient during economic hardships.
Weinstein started traveling to Tucson in 2004, working with his father-in-law to design and develop the Monier Brickyard housing project. The family moved to Tucson after they learned they were expecting their first child.
After securing permits and completing architectural plans for the Monier Brickyard project, Weinstein had to stop pursuing the housing development project because the economy had collapsed and banks were pulling loans they had promised the newly founded Gadsden Company, Dixon-Weinstein said.
Instead, they shifted their focus to designing and developing Mercado San Agustin.
“We really looked at it being kind of a touchstone for what we would hope to be the growing and expanding public market district for Tucson, and looked at it as being an initial phase in a longer development program, which is precisely what it has become,” Weinstein said.
In 2008, Tucson City Council awarded the Gadsden Company a development contract for 14 acres west of downtown. Since Mercado San Agustin opened in 2010, the Gadsden Company has developed a six-story senior housing complex and a low- and middle-income housing project. After high demand from local businesses, they also opened the MSA Annex in 2018, housing 18 small businesses in shipping containers as a temporary extension of the Mercado San Agustin. The location will be the future site of a more permanent mercado and hotel.
“It’s wonderful to see that there has been a whole new level of life brought to that area,” Weinstein said.
The project currently under construction next to the Mercado is a modified version of the originally planned Monier apartments.
“It’s very thrilling to see this particular building come to fruition at this time in a slightly different manner than was originally conceived, but we’re thrilled with the courtyard housing product that we’ve developed,” Weinstein said.
He said the streetcar was a large catalyst in the family’s decision to develop the Mercado District. Though construction for the streetcar had not started yet, talks of building a streetcar along downtown Tucson reaching west of the freeway had started.
While the City of Tucson worked to secure funding for the streetcar, the Dixon-Weinsteins started planning for multi-use commercial projects along the potential route, looking to other cities that had a streetcar, like Portland, and seeing a boost of real estate values along the streetcar route, Weinstein said.
The Gadsden Company has invested more than $70 million in the Mercado District. That doesn’t include investments from partner companies, or the Rio Nuevo Board, which approved $2.4 million in funding in 2018 to help launch the $35 million Monier project.
Thinking ambitiously, Weinstein said he hopes their plans for the district are completed in the next seven years. The company is working on adding three mid-rise residential buildings along the Santa Cruz River behind the Sentinel Plaza, along with retail and parking garage buildings and a grocery store with more residential units. The company will invest more than $100 million more with the future projects it’s working on.
Dixon-Weinstein credits the Gadsden Company’s success to her father’s success as a real estate developer in Phoenix and his desire to build a legacy in Tucson.
“We were very lucky that we were able to partner with somebody who was willing to just have vision and let vision be the biggest motivator,” she said.
When they’re not working on developing the west end of downtown, the Dixon-Weinsteins spend time with their three children hiking Tumamoc Hill and Sabino Canyon, visiting Dixon-Weinstein’s parents’ ranch in the Dragoon Mountains, about two hours southeast of Tucson near Benson, and vacationing in Mexico.
Weinstein and Dixon-Weinstein also stay involved in the Tucson community by serving on a number of boards. With a fine arts degree, Dixon-Weinstein has been part of the board of Museum of Contemporary Art and will become board president this year. Weinstein serves on the Downtown Tucson Partnership board and on Parkwise, the city’s downtown parking program. Weinstein said investing their time and money to help build the Tucson community outside of the Mercado District is important to him and his wife.
“We take that role very seriously,” he said. “It’s important to us and it’s an important part of participating in the growing of the Tucson that I think we all want to see.”