July 21, 2008

Retail Center a Collaborative Effort

By Danielle Sottosanti, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Jul. 21--An upcoming gathering of three Central neighborhoods and an out-of-town developer will continue years of communication and understanding, despite a separation of thousands of miles.

Residents of the Campus Farm, Amphi and Limberlost neighbor- hoods originally wanted a park and a neighborhood center on about 15 acres of land on the northeast corner of East Limberlost Drive and North First Avenue.

By the end of 2003, they knew they wouldn't get what they wanted, because no government money was available to pay for it, said Bonnie Poulos, a member of the Campus Farm Neighborhood Association's steering committee.

Instead the land is home to Rillito Crossing Marketplace, a 131,000-square-foot development that so far contains an LA Fitness workout facility, which is open at 4240 N. First Ave., and a Sunflower Farmers Market, still under construction.

Most residents are happy with the marketplace, even though they wanted a park there, Poulos said.

"We wanted it to stay open space, and we wanted to get a park, but if we had to get commercial (development), we did the best we could," she said.

They're happy with Rillito Crossing because they've taken an active role in working with Wisconsin-based developer Continental Properties Co. Inc. The developer and neighborhood associations have maintained ongoing communication.

"For them to understand the neighbors' concerns -- and their willingness to work with us -- was really outstanding," said Rick Wicinski, co-president of the Amphi Neighborhood Association.

Since late 2004, Wicinski, Poulos and other representatives of the three neighborhoods have met with Continental Properties for updates on the marketplace.

In the beginning, they met as often as once a month, though now there are fewer updates, so they don't meet as often, said Kimberly Grimm, Continental's vice president of development.

Continental took the neighbors' e-mail addresses and kept them informed electronically, in addition to those meetings.

The neighbors were very inquisitive, Grimm said. They wanted to learn what the company's development plans were.

Poulos said she and the other neighbors didn't want a "big-box" store there, and they are happy there isn't one.

Michael Ray, president of the Limberlost Neighborhood Association, said the marketplace is conducive to his neighborhood's aim of being walkable. He said he likes the marketplace's tenants so far.

Continental Properties let the residents name the development and also pick an artist to create the public art that would decorate it.

The neighbors chose sculptor Nicholas Lowell Burke, who lives in the Limberlost neighborhood. He made a cast bronze sculpture called "Raindrop."

The sculpture is 4 1/2 feet tall -- 7 feet with the base -- and is an abstract symbol of the preciousness of water, Burke said. It's meant to symbolize the water cycle. It will be unveiled during a ceremony that will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rillito Crossing Marketplace.

Burke's work can be found throughout the Tucson area, as well as nationally and internationally. An example of his local work is "The Magic Carpet," a sculpture at Children's Memorial Park, 4851 N. 15th Place.

More information on Burke and his work is online at www.nlburkeart.com.

If you go

--What: Unveiling of Tucsonan Nicholas Lowell Burke's sculpture "Raindrop" and a continental breakfast.

--When: 9 a.m. Saturday.

--Where: Rillito Crossing Marketplace, northeast corner of East Limberlost Drive and North First Avenue.

--Cost: Free, but make reservations by Wednesday to Toffee Coleman at [email protected]

--Contact reporter Danielle Sottosanti at 618-1922 or at [email protected]


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