Dec 27, 2014

Travel: Where to Find A Trendy Neighborhood in Tucson AZ

Visiting Tucson (The Old Pueblo) in Southern Arizona is a very unique experience. Located in an area surrounded by mountains in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, the city looks very small but boast a population nearing 1 million. Even though there are areas that a extremely rich, most of the population is lower middle class or even classifies as below the poverty line. It has hung on very tightly to it's wild west roots. Now things are beginning to change slowly but surely. It is as though it is just beginning to join the 21st century.

I did not believe that the city would ever be anything but a relic crumbling in the desert. I was wrong. We have been living half of the year in Tucson for around 7-8 years. When we came here, the city's core was dying even though there were several minor league baseball teams that played for large crowds of tourist for a period during the winter. The city also boasts a very large gem show in February every year that attracts thousands. And better yet the University of Arizona sits within walking distance of the cities core. In spite of all that, urban sprawl had left the Old Pueblo core abandoned, boarded up and in fact a little scary.

We were downtown today and it is now beginning to emerge as a very trendy place to be. I was reminded of Boise, Idaho back in the day. Boise just stood still and waited to decided if it really wanted to join the rest of the world or if it was going to remain locked in a time warp undefined and stagnant. But when everyone had given up on that city, it sprang to life and actually may be having the last laugh. Tucson is very like that.

The city fathers here in Tucson took it upon themselves to launch a plan for redevelopment of the downtown. It faltered and locals scoffed at the possibility that it would ever come to anything. I was a bystander and hoped that the city could find a way to dig itself out of the hole it was in.

Then the Pima County officials made a very bad move that allowed all of the minor league teams to leave the area and move to Phoenix. It could have been the death knell for the tourist commerce in the area. And, as I understand it, the gem fair was looking for a new venue.

Front of the HOTEL CONGRESS from across the street.
But now Tucson city center is beginning to come to life. Evidently the urban planners are making some very good decisions. Many trendy restaurants and brewpubs line the two main streets and people are using the new trolley line to commute from the University of Arizona so they can take advantage of what the city has to offer. Condos are built and look as though they may be full. Even on a Saturday when parking is free because the offices are closed, the streets were very busy and restaurants were crowded.

We ate at a place on the corner across the street from our favorite breakfast spot called the Hotel Congress. The restaurants named Proper served a simple menu of healthy food and was decorated beautifully. My hamburger was perfect and the Proper Red Wine was a very good choice.

It is not perfect...yet. But don't wait. If you are a tourist visiting Tucson for a few day to catch a little warm weather, I would urge you to go to the city center. It think it would be worth your time.

Proper's cool interior. The word is that this is a very hot spot for college students
on Friday and Saturday
Related Blog Post: Watching the Old Pueblo (Tucson AZ) Grow UP

2 comments:

  1. I lived in Tucson for a few years in the late 70s'-early 80's. Downtown had already become a pretty quiet area that felt abandoned. I am pleased to read your report of something new going on. A city without a vibrant core isn't really a city, just a collection of suburbs.

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    Replies
    1. Some how seeing the downtown area come back to life renews my interest in Tucson. The south and east side of the city is where we live. It is fun to have something closer to us.

      The venue for performances in the core area is what has kept it alive I think.But it has not been inviting for a broad cross section of the population. The college dominated the whole area. I see it now more as a community gathering place. I like it a lot.

      I suppose the reason could be linked to the way it is beginning to be more hip like Portland! :)

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