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Sep 24, 2013 10:34 PM

City moves cautiously forward with development plans for Ronstadt Center

TUCSON- Since 1991 the Ronstadt Center downtown has been nothing more than a place to catch a ride.

But as downtown continues to grow, the 4.6 acre site has become quite the real estate opportunity.

Corky Poster is an architect and planner hired by the city to look at how the area can be redeveloped. The plan would be to create a multi-use hub.

The city would lease the site to private developers. The developers would build apartments and shops in the area, while bus service continues to operate out of the center. The money made from leasing the site would help fund transit service.

"It would help a lot, just bringing different people around," says Danny Gamez, who owns a barber shop across the street.

"People want an active space, they want something that reflects Tucson, they want something that incorporates open space and places for people to gather, a place with more services and retail," says Nicole Ewing Gavin, Tucson's Planning and Policy Program Director.

But Bus Rider Suzanne Schafer, who is also a member of the Tucson Bus Riders Union, is concerned about private developers taking charge of the site. "I'm concerned about the availability of space for people to come together, educate one another and just be downtown at a place where they don't want to spend any money," Schaefer says.

She also says the city didn't look enough into what different groups from the public think about the idea, including the Tucson Bus Riders Union.

On Tuesday afternoon the city council voted to move forward with possible plans to redevelop the center.

After council members Regina Romero, Paul Cunningham and Karin Uhlich voiced concerns about the project, they voted not to start looking at resumes for developers until January. That is two months later than originally scheduled.

The process will take several months and the city doesn't expect to see an official plan put in place until next summer at the earliest.

Construction wouldn't start for another 12 to 18 months.

Meanwhile, Schaefer says between now and January, she plans to try and get the city to listen to more public comments about the proposal.

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