Several times a week, Tucson resident Veronica Furlong climbs aboard a brightly colored Sun Link electric streetcar at the Avenida del Convento stop on the city’s west side and rides across town to her job as an archivist at the Arizona State Museum. “I started using the streetcar as soon as service started; it’s a great option for me and other workers to get to our jobs,” Furlong said as a new streetcar approached her stop, hardly making a sound.
The city’s four-mile streetcar line began operations in August 2014 and recorded its millionth passenger in May this year, putting ridership way ahead of predictions as local commuters and visitors enjoy gliding through downtown Tucson in the comfort of an air-conditioned, non-polluting streetcar.
Seven new housing projects have been or will be approved this year, all located near the streetcar line. The Sun Link project, which has already brought more than $200 million in private investment to downtown, is just one of Tucson’s current revitalization efforts transforming the city’s downtown neighborhoods. This year the city council approved tax incentives for several crucial downtown commercial projects including the Johnny Gibson grocery store, the first downtown food market since 1952. The Tucson Convention Center completed a $9 million upgrade, Comcast is adding 1,100 jobs at a new customer support center, and the Art Deco-era Fox Tucson Theatre’s restoration draws people downtown for evening concerts.
Next year, the downtown opening of the urban lifestyle hotel brand AC Hotel by Marriott will spur even more development. This sunny Southwestern city — long known for its golf and spa resorts in the desert mountains and as a quiet retirement destination (fourth best in the nation according to a recent Gallup poll) — is finally catching up with Austin, Seattle, Denver and Portland, Ore., whose design-driven, eco-friendly downtowns draw tech-savvy millennials and their entrepreneurial ambitions. This phenomenon is not lost on Tucson’s movers and shakers.
“We are focusing on driving the market to continue attracting the millennials,” said Michael Keith, CEO, Downtown Tucson Partnership. “Downtown has to capture the young, creative people, and of Tucson’s present downtown entrepreneurs, 75 percent are under the age of 40.”
Fletcher McCusker, a longtime business leader and one of Tucson’s major philanthropists, spoke about the mission to protect the city’s historic assets while allowing some vertical density. “We have created a blended community that is part art, part tourism, part business, education and government, and at night it converts to an entertainment zone,” he said. “This delicate balance has to be maintained by developers and others so we can keep attracting young and innovative people.” With affordable commercial and residential real estate, a business-friendly environment, plenty of hiking and biking trails, 37 professional golf courses and the southernmost ski area in the United States on nearby Mount Lemmon, Tucson’s attractiveness to young entrepreneurs is growing. In addition, Tucson’s conveniently located airport offers non-stop service to 15 major U.S. cities.
Startup Tucson, founded in 2011, has been instrumental in supporting the launch and growth of new, high-impact businesses in Tucson. Many of these startups — including HTG Molecular, Metropia, Pinged and KorkBoard — use high technology in new ways, while others, like RBar Energy (nutrition bars) and BlackRock Brewers (craft beer) are finding hot new markets in the Tucson area for more traditional products.
In addition, the city and the University of Arizona formed an alliance to incubate local technology startup firms. The Tech Launch Arizona program engages local talent and expertise from UA and elsewhere to work with area startups.
Many of the city’s 17 historic neighborhoods, all close to downtown, are gentrifying as new housing restorations, shops and restaurants pop up in formerly neglected areas. A startling housing project designed by architect Stefanos Polyzoides, the “Godfather of New Urbanism,” is in development with PureBuild as a Mediterranean-style village with fountains, pedestrian-only lanes and brightly painted masonry houses.
The city’s fledging solar industry is also heating up. This year, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, a major city employer, completed the largest solar installation in the Department of Defense, expected to save about half a million dollars a year. The Tucson Unified School District is installing solar at 43 schools, providing 80 percent of each school’s power needs. Residents and businesses are also taking advantage of the city’s high annual sunshine rating by installing solar panels whenever possible.
Tucson’s iconic resorts, including The Westin La Paloma, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa and the newer Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, all located in stunning desert terrain outside the city, continue to draw leisure travelers and corporate meeting groups. But with so many new restaurant and entertainment options downtown, along with a plethora of innovative startups and the convenient streetcar, the dynamics of visiting the Tucson metro area will surely change.
With high desert peaks in every direction, perhaps the prettiest city drive is to head west on Speedway Boulevard, which becomes Gates Pass Road as it climbs into the Tucson Mountains and Saguaro National Park West. Cacti dot the foothills, and a scenic overlook at 3,172 feet offers great views of the surrounding terrain. Continue another few miles to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and walk through the indoor/outdoor live exhibits of desert wildlife. Enjoy lunch at the museum’s restaurant before returning to the city to complete the 30-mile roundtrip.
For a full-day excursion, take I-19 South to Tubac (45 miles). Founded by the Spanish in 1752, the town of 1,200 year-round residents boasts cafés, galleries and craft shops. Nearby is the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, built in 1959 on the site of the Otero family’s 1789 hacienda, which still stands. Continue south on I-19 toward Nogales, almost to the border with Mexico, but follow signage to Route 82 North, where Patagonia (population 900) with its friendly, anti-establishment vibe, eclectic artist studios and holistic body treatment practitioners is a throw-back to the 1960s. A little farther, Sonoita (population 800) is known for its wine trail; about a dozen wineries produce excellent southern Arizona wine and are open for tastings. At Sonoita, take Route 83 to I-10 West and return to Tucson. Routes 82/83 pass through the Santa Rita Mountains and Coronado National Forest; the roundtrip from downtown is 142 miles.
As more destinations around the globe reopen to travelers, we are ready to get back to one of our favorite activities. Join us over the next several weeks as we take you to places around the world saying #WelcomeBacktoTravel. Take a visual journey through Charleston, South Carolina, with us.
Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.
Velas Resorts’ new Group Takeover Program offers a spin on the classic working vacation. With so many industries going fully remote and leaving the office for good, companies can now take advantage of the flexibility with offers like Velas Resorts Group Takeover Program, guaranteeing exclusive, private use of the hotel for corporate functions, meetings and group events.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs and account for nearly 48 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce. And small- and medium-sized businesses outpace all other sectors as one of the fastest-growing in the United States. InterContinental® Hotels Group (IHG) goes above and beyond to create opportunities for this segment with its IHG® Business Edge program, voted Best Small- to Mid-Sized Business Program in Global Traveler’s 2019 GT Tested Reader Survey awards.
Atlantis, The Palm offers global guests staying five or more nights the opportunity to claim back the cost of their respective countries’ departure PCR test now through April 30, 2021. Many travelers are required to present a negative PCR test before arriving in the UAE, and the luxury resort will give back the full cost of the tests for two guests per room to spend as in-resort credit. For a PCR test that costs up to $190, two guests will receive the full amount back to spend at the resort, including food and beverage, spa or waterpark experiences.
IHG® Business Edge provides small- to midsized enterprises with benefits and confidence to navigate the evolving business travel environment.
Premium travelers know the benefits of holding a first- or business- class ticket extend beyond those front-of-the-craft cabins boasting lie-flat seats, fine dining and top-shelf wines and liquors. Yes, extra baggage allowances and access to priority check-in, security, boarding and luggage retrieval also make the travel experience more pleasant. Perhaps the perk experienced flyers most appreciate, however, is access to airport lounges.