A $1,000,000 fixer-upper
The city of Tucson plans to spend that to rehab the Catholic Diocese's Marist College Building. Critics question the cost. Supporters say it pays to preserve a building that could contribute to downtown again. Video by kgun9.comvideo
The hope is once rehabbed, the old building will be bought for restaurant, office or hotel use, and help revive downtown
Diocese property director John Shaheen says the Diocese has already put $40,000 into preserving the building, and spend much more secured through grants but it can't pay for the extensive rehab it needs to avoid demolishing the building
Vice Mayor Steve Kozachik questioned whether the city would do better to spend the money on housing rehab and other uses permitted under the Federal grant
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The City of Tucson is planning to spend more than a million dollars to repair a building it doesn't own---and doesn't want to own.
It would use Federal money, but that's still your tax dollars.
The old Marist College building has an honored history. It was a parochial school. The school was integrated decades before that was common. But it clearly need some work. The city's planning to sink more than a million dollars into it, hoping a developer will buy it, sink more money into it and make it a restaurant, an office building, a hotel---an asset to downtown again.
There are plenty of dream properties in Tucson. You could spend more than a million for them---if you had that kind of money.
But the Marist College Building is a million dollar fixer upper---with some of your tax money.
It's almost a hundred years old and is the tallest adobe building in Arizona.
The Catholic Diocese owns it. Diocese property manager John Shaheen says without repairs, weather will keep eating at the adobe and the building will be torn down, before it falls down.
He says has the diocese already paid 40 thousand in it's own money and won 80 thousand in city and state preservation grants.
Now Tucson City Council has told city staff to try to preserve the building with 1.1 million in grants.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "Why should tax dollars go towards this? Why can't the Diocese rehab the building?"
Shaheen replied: "We are not in a position to do it on our own and we've said that all along.
The money in question is Federal money and the city is not free to spend it where ever it wants. It can't spend it on things like more police. Federal rules say this pool of money must be used on problems defined as urban blight.
Councilmember Steve Kozachik questioned whether the city has more pressing needs for that money.
"It could have an impact on our ability to fund housing rehab, environmental clearances, lead based paint or any of the other allowable CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) projects though, correct?"
City Community Development Director Albert Elias replied: "Mr. Vice Mayor, that's correct."
Council wants a deal where the Diocese would sell the building when the rehab is done, then reimburse as much of the 1.1 million as the sale brings in.
The Diocese property manager says the diocese has been working on the assumption it wouldn't make a profit on the sale of the building.
The exact details of the arrangements with the city are still something they'll have to negotiate.
There are some ways the city will benefit if the building is fixed up and sold.
The diocese is exempt from property tax. If it sells the building it'll go onto property tax rolls.
The estimate is the rehab work will push about 715 thousand dollars into the economy through material purchases and that'll send the city about 74 thousand in sales tax.