Dec 6, 2010 6:00 PM
DOWNTOWN - Mercado San Agustin is set to open on Congress St. in two weeks as the first phase of plans to construct a public market district.
Although not technically a Rio Nuevo project, Mercado builders are lured by the idea and location to spearhead downtown economic development.
The privately owned Mercado San Agustin endured the recession and a two-year construction delay to now seeing their cultural vision of a downtown public market become reality.
"The development that's happening is close to downtown. I think that it's a great market, says tenant Oscar Delagdo. He's set to open Taqueria El Pueblito, an authentic south central Mexican cuisine.
"People want to go to downtown because there is something going on downtown. So I think this is the first step towards that kind of Tucson," says Delgado.
"There's no taxpayer or Rio Nuevo dollars involved in this at all," says owner Kira Dixon-Weinstein. "Rio Nuevo dollars did put in the brand new streets you see around the outside of the facility. As we watched Rio Nuevo fall apart, we stayed. Because we believe that the street car will be a game changer for expanding downtown."
Dixon-Weinstein says the building is nearing 100% tenant capacity with less than two weeks until opening, "Our tenants have stuck it out with us through the recession and the slow down because they are committed to the project."
Prime location exploiting the "A" mountain view with roof top seating above a Spanish colonial style courtyard is a business recipe Delgado says will work, "This part of town is going to be very successful and I'm talking about in the short term. Like two, three years from now."
Soon eighteen small businesses selling baked goods, flowers, art and produce will open the first downtown public market, "Public markets nurture small businesses. Local small businesses," says Dixon-Weinstein.
"It's taking a risk," says Delgado. "And seeing the opportunity that is happening and saying I think we can do this. I think we can make it happen."
The Mercado San Agustin public market will be open to the public the weekend of December 17-19.