Investors want library area for 27-story tower
By Joe Burchell
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
An investment group led by restaurateur Bob McMahon and manufacturer Don Martin wants the city to give it exclusive no-bid rights to buy land at the Main Library Downtown, where it hopes to build Tucson's tallest high-rise.
McMahon, a leading figure in the campaign to appoint City Manager Mike Hein two months ago, would open a restaurant on the 27th floor of the 350-foot Century Tower building, which would have commercial tenants on the ground floor and about 160 condos on the floors in between. Plans presented to City Council members in private meetings last month call for all businesses in the tower to be locally owned and for financing to come from local investors.
Those points, said Mayor Bob Walkup and several council members, make the proposal both "intriguing" and more appealing than the typical development project. McMahon said he and Martin hope to recruit 100 local investors to put up $50,000 each to provide initial funding for the $50 million to $70 million building, which would be at the southwest corner of West Pennington Street and North Church Avenue.
About 60 of those investors have already been lined up, he said, although he declined to identify who they are other than "the usual suspects." They aren't seeking public funding for the building, and they would buy the city property at "a negotiated market rate," McMahon said. However, city taxpayers could be asked to pay for part of a two- or three-level underground parking garage. If the project is successful, council members say, McMahon and Martin plan two smaller office and commercial towers on the southeast and northwest corners of the library block.
Hein said he met with McMahon and Martin briefly last week and advised them to present their plans to the City Council's economic development and Rio Nuevo subcommittees, a meeting now scheduled for June 1. "I presume people are going to speculate about that," Hein said of McMahon's having lobbied for his appointment. "That's unfortunate. I don't have a long history with Bob McMahon." Hein said all McMahon got for championing his appointment as city manager was a "thank you," and that's all he's going to get. McMahon said there's no link between Hein's appointment and the Century Tower project.
He said the original plans were for a much smaller building and private club Downtown. But they just evolved and grew into the plan for the tallest building in town to provide a spectacular setting for a high-class restaurant, he said. Condos would cost from $300,000 to $450,000, Martin said. The restaurant would be The New Pueblo Club, a takeoff on the exclusive Old Pueblo Club that once set the standard for elegance in Tucson. Once the building is completed, which could be as soon as 2008, the 100 investors would retain ownership in the commercial areas of the building, giving them a stake in Downtown.
Walkup said he still needs a lot more information before he approves the plan, but in concept it's "a great idea." He said he told Martin, "If you've got this many people interested in this thing, we ought to talk some more. "Anything we can do to get some interest and fire Downtown should be considered."
● Contact reporter Joe Burchell at 573-4244 or at [email protected].