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Apr 23, 2012 10:39 AM

Downtown development leader: a whole new Tucson in two years

TUCSON- We've heard from downtown business owners about the headaches caused by modern streetcar construction.

But there are some that say the construction is the driving force behind some big money already being pumped into downtown development.

Michael Keith of the Downtown Tucson Partnership says over the last four years business owners and developers have pumped more than $200 million into downtown development. "This is the next hot spot in the West."

It's not a statement most would make after taking a walk around downtown these days and seeing all the construction. "But I think once streetcar construction is done, this place is going to explode," Keith says.

Keith cites many downtown development projects going on right now to support that belief. From almost a dozen restaurants set to open, to the new county courthouse being built and a new UA housing complex, and Keith says we're going to start seeing a lot more people downtown.

"We're going to see upwards of 1,000 beds coming downtown in the next two years." And that, according to Keith, brings him one step closer to his goal of turning downtown into what he calls an "urban oasis".

"You live in a place where festivals and events occur outside your door, you walk to a grocery store, you go to a play," Keith says.

It's an idea North Scott Barber Salon Co-owner Leonard Klastow looks forward to, even if it means putting up with the construction headaches now.

"I'm excited for it," Klastow says. "I think it will bring in a lot of customers for us next year."

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