Baffert Controversy

Most involved members of our Armory Park community are already aware of the proposal to construct a new commercial and residential building on the northeast

Developers Rendering Looking Northeast

corner of 6th Avenue and 18th Street. The project periodically becomes subject of discussion and then fades to the background for long periods. Now is a good time to be paying attention to developments.

There is an upcoming public hearing by a zoning examiner which could have a dramatic effect on Armory Park and on historic preservation in Tucson generally. The following information is extracted from the public notice:

Date: April 12,2018 Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Mayor and Council Chambers* First Floor, City Hall, 255 West Alameda, Tucson, ArizonaAPPLICANT
Lawrence Kappler
KJ3L 747, LLC
P.O.Box 64669
Tucson, AZ 85728
Case: C9-18-02 The Baffert @ 5 Points
Requested Zoning Change: HC-3 to C-3 and C-3 to HC-3
Location: 5 Points area: Intersection of S. Stone Avenue, S. 6* Avenue and 18* Street
Proposed Development: Amend the Historic District boundary by removing one parcel (HC-3 to C-3) and adding another parcel (C-3 to HC-3) to allow a 48 foot tall, mixed-use development of the first parcel [italics added]
Baffert Property
Baffert Parcel, 6th & 18th

The most important issue here is the first ever removal of a property from a Tucson Historic Preservation Zone by rezoning and only the second removal by any means. This poses a serious threat to the survival of all historic zones and particularly the viability of our Armory Park HPZ.

Notice that the verbiage in the italics above suggests that the rezoning is a trade of two parcels. The idea of a trade is that the subject properties would be similar in value, size or functionality. This “trade” does not qualify by any of those measures. The “added” property is too small for any historic or economic

Wanslee Garage
Wanslee Garage Parcel, 5 Points

use and would be restricted to the current configuration of an obsolete garage for Wanslee Motors. Yes, the current signage would be historically protected and would remain. Further, the sight angles for the complicated intersection would prevent most any other reasonable use of the property.

It is almost a certainty that the 48 foot height of the project will prevail. The most important matter in this regard is that 48 feet must be the total height of the structure with no additional allowance for rooftop appurtenances. The reason this height will prevail is economic and political. Mayor and Council (M&C) have placed this property and others along 6th Avenue in an Infill Incentive District (IID) to facilitate redevelopment. Shorter buildings are not as rewarding financially. With the pressure from well financed developers and city leadership seeking additional tax revenues, expect to see more of the same.

Regardless of building height, other historic elements of this and future projects must be subject to review by the historic boards (e.g. our APHZAB) City/County historic commission. Neither will have the last word on appearance or other matters but they will have a voice that could influence the acceptability of the final project.

It is not clear  to me who will be allowed to offer testimony at the hearing but both of your neighborhood organizations will do so. The neighborhood association (APNA) and historic board (APHZAB) will testify. They are also submitting written testimony to be included in the record. Both have been having serious discussions regarding how the damage to our neighborhood and historic preservation can be mitigated; there will be damage. Their words will have more impact if many residents show their concern by attending the hearing.

Regardless of the hearing outcome, this will not be the last conflict in this area. If no compromise is reached between the neighborhood and developer, there will be an appeal to M&C. Even without an appeal of this matter, expect to see the same issue arise northward on 6th Avenue as other property owners hope to cash out regardless of the damage to their historic neighborhood. The area of our HPZ between 6th and Stone will become isolated and not viable as a historic neighborhood.

Prepare to push back or accept the gradual disappearance of historic preservation in Tucson.

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