March 23, 2005 - Two new developments at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Skyline Drive are upsetting some local residents, while owners are hoping the multiuse plazas will bring with them big business.
Construction at the scenic intersection has long been controversial, yet inevitable. By the end of this year, all four corners will have substantial retail developments. The most recent contribution is the Paloma Village Center on the southeast corner and Plaza Colonial on the southwest corner of Campbell and Skyline, at one of the most prominent intersections in Tucson.
"We weren't really happy about it," said Charles Wagner, a local homeowner, living at the 2600 block of Avenida de Maria, behind the 80,000-square-foot Plaza Colonial, still under construction.
While Wagner may hear the bulldozers and the pounding of nails daily from his home, he is not totally convinced that, when completed, the plaza could offer a place to dine and shop, he said.
Plaza Colonial, still under construction, is owned by NCH Corporation, and the exterior shell is set for completion in October 2005, said Eric Entringer, project management for the corporation.
When completed, the plaza will be a multiuse facility designated for upscale retail, office spaces and restaurants. Entringer is not certain about which businesses will lease the space, but he is certain that it will stay multiuse and will be attractive for the community.
The architect for both Plaza Colonial and Paloma Village Center, Kevin B. Howard, said the plazas are at one of the "best locations in town for high-end retail."
Normally a high-end custom home architect, Howard didn't begin designing commercial projects until a few years ago. He said he wanted to work on the plazas because they presented a "good design opportunity."
When driving either east or west on Skyline Drive, it is hard to miss the dome sitting on top of the two-story shell that will ultimately be Plaza Colonial.
Howard said he was inspired by such areas as San Miguel, Mexico, and wanted to bring that Spanish Colonial feel back to Tucson.
Howard is convinced that, when completed, the project will "not be another mall," he said.
Daniel Peters, president of the Catalina Pueblo homeowners association and resident of the 2700 block of Avenida de Pueblo, looks out his back door and can see the construction of Plaza Colonial.
Peters said the owners did try to work with the residents of the 108 homes within his association, but he would prefer to not live with the noise and dust being created by the construction of the plaza.
Some of the homeowners within the Catalina Pueblo homeowners association are looking forward to the completion of the plaza, Peters said. However, as an association, they have had to deal with complaints about such irritations as construction starting in the morning before it is allowed by Pima County and the height of the two-story building.
"When they came out to build, it was like gangbusters," Peters said, admitting that perhaps the workers were a bit overzealous.
Peters is not totally against the project, but said the view of the mountains is "being destroyed" by the addition of another building within the area.
Howard and the owners made a conscious effort to make the plaza attractive on all sides, which is beneficial for local residents, Howard said.
When you drive by, you don't see the parking lot, Howard said. He added that the building, not the parking lots, is what commands the streets, unlike at another popular development at the intersection of Campbell and Skyline: La Encantada.
"The building (Plaza Colonial) is attractive on all sides," Howard said. "It is beautiful from all ways around it."
Howard said the design of Plaza Colonial was driven by the need for more architecture that is representative of the history of Tucson. He hopes that the plaza will become a "model about what can be done" while being "sensitive to the neighborhood," he said.
For Howard, the design of the Paloma Village Center, a 64,000-square-foot multiuse "strip village," was inspired by the Joesler Village, located on Broadway Boulevard and Country Club Road.
Construction on the Paloma Village Center began in October 2003, and while the space is about 95 percent leased, construction isn't finished, said Peter Aronoff, managing member and part owner of NC Sky, the company that owns the center.
Like the owners of Plaza Colonial, Aronoff was attracted to the intersection of Campbell and Skyline.
"It's a good corner," he said, admitting that there is a lot of demand for another multiuse shopping and dinning facility.
Paloma Village offers its customers a dry cleaner, Starbucks Coffee, a soon-to-be-completed CVS drugstore and an art gallery, to name a few - something that Lucine Dirtadian, co-owner of the Paloma Village tenant Skyline Gallery, was impressed with.
"We wanted to create an environment that felt cozy and comfortable," Dirtadian said. And so far her expectations have been fulfilled, she said.
"It just feels right," she said.
The Skyline Gallery, which sells everything from one-of-a-kind jewelry to handblown glass, opened its doors Feb. 4. For Dirtadian, business has been great. She said that has a lot to do with the location.
The center has "old Tucson charm," she said. She added that she and her two best friends, co-owners Ursula Rodgers and Julia Selvig, looked at areas across the busy Skyline Drive at La Encantada but were won over by the center and its "strip village feel," she said.
When all is said and done, the Paloma Village Center, along with a 112-room hotel, still set for construction, cost about $27 million, Aronoff said.
The center is not just a destination type of retail center, Aronoff said, but also a mixture of services that are available to local residents who live in the area.
One of the center's main attractions has been Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, which opened its doors six months ago. For Barney Confrey, operating partner for the high-end steakhouse, business has been great.
"I could not have picked a better location," he said. "It is wonderful being part of the neighborhood."