I voted to authorize federal funds to save the historic Marist College. I am deeply disappointed the Catholic Church decided not to move forward with privatizing the building - in order to qualify for those funds. I hope parishioners will take pride in their beautiful building and restore it.
- Regina Romero
Restoring the Historic Marist College building ultimately will yield many returns
By Regina Romero, Tucson City Council, Ward 1
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
July 10, 2012
Tucson’s historic resources define our city’s unique character, history and identity. A year ago, I wrote to you about Mayor and Council’s unanimous support for protecting Tucson’s historic signs. These whimsical roadside creations are being restored and Tucson has been lauded for our leadership on this issue by national publications including the SF chronicle. Thousands of Tucsonans turned out to witness the turning-on of restored neon at Drachman and Stone in April of this year. A privately-developed driving guide was created for locals and visitors to celebrate Tucson’s neon past. This overwhelmingly successful initiative proves the economic value of protecting our city’s diverse cultural resources.
On Tuesday Mayor and Council will consider a proposal to save the historic Marist College. An affirmative vote would invest $1.1 million in federal funds to stabilize and restore the exterior of this incredible adobe structure. The building, constructed in 1915, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Located directly across from the Tucson Convention Center, Marist has sat blighted and crumbling for almost a decade, emblematic of the decline of the urban core in Downtowns across the country. Without leadership and community intervention, this and other landmark buildings are knocked down, eliminating their imbedded economic potential.
In Tucson we already destroyed most of the historic Barrio. We can’t let Marist be another victim to “urban renewal.”
This vote is our last opportunity to revitalize rather than demolish.
The building’s construction was part of a movement in the early decades of the twentieth century to shape Tucson into an American City with educational and cultural institutions and iconic architecture. Marist College was designed by Bishop Henry Granjon and built by a local master adobe mason, Manual Flores. It was initially a parochial school for boys, and then was opened to both sexes and all races from 1924 to 1968. It was Tucson’s first integrated school, where many of our most prominent citizens were educated. At 52 feet high, it is the tallest adobe building in Arizona.
The path to preservation has been driven by a coalition of community stakeholders who have given huge amounts of time and expertise for more than two years. A nomination to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places and make available the historic tax credit was prepared by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, a process normally costing upwards of $20,000.
The Downtown Tucson Partnership, historic preservation advocates, the Ward 1 and Ward 6 Council Offices, the Catholic Diocese and the City of Tucson released a request-for-interest process to finish the rehabilitation and return this historic building to the tax rolls. The public’s initial investment for blight removal and stabilization will create 15 full-time jobs for five months at higher wages than new construction, will inject $715,000 into the local economy through materials purchases, will generate $90,000 in annual property taxes, and $74,000 in City tax revenues and permit fees. Sales taxes in a future restaurant will generate even more City revenue.
The City’s commitment will result in a large private-sector investment to renovate the interior, offering career opportunities and new money in the local economy. Options include a high-end boutique hotel, restaurant and office space.
The restoration of this icon is an opportunity to define the next 100 years of our City. I call on my colleagues to join me in support of Marist College - an irreplaceable treasure.