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Jun 13, 2012 8:00 PM

Streetcar project sparking more downtown development

TUCSON - The Modern Streetcar won't be up and running for more than a year but it is already putting downtown Tucson in the spotlight when it comes to future development. Several housing projects will break ground along the downtown portion of the route in the coming months. There is also more than half a dozen bars and restaurants in the planning stages.

"There's 100,000 people that live within walking distance, live or work, within walking distance of the street car," said Michael Keith of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

Keith says that statistic has businesses clamoring to claim a spot along the 3.4-mile route, which connects the U of A with the western edge of downtown. It is a move Keith says will revitalize downtown while helping Tucson compete for tourists and businesses.

"We're suddenly going to be able to take our place in that line and begin to sell Tucson," Keith said.

Art Wadlund is also banking on the streetcar's success.

"We both have excitement, and we also know that there's risk," Wadlund said.

Wadlund and his business partner plan to transform a parking lot off of Broadway and Stone into a seven-story building. It will house the Pima Association of Governments, some retail, apartments and parking.

"We're going to be catering our apartments based to people who will utilize the streetcar a lot," he said. "So it's very, very important."

It is true the process has not been easy, many small businesses are feeling the pain of closed streets, reduced parking and empty sidewalks. Those are trials Keith and Wadlund hope will be worth it once the streetcar is up and running.

"This is our golden moment," Keith said.

If things stay on track the streetcar should be in service by Fall of 2013.

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