Event Photography

Photo Essay: Downtown Tucson Revitalization

Yesterday evening, I did my 100th Meet Me at Maynards walk around Downtown Tucson.

While I padded along in the 100-degree heat, I shot the following photo essay. It’s intended to show the positive and negative sides of Downtown Tucson’s revitalization efforts. First, the positives:

Let’s start with Meet Me at Maynards itself. It’s been going non-stop since April 2009. Every Monday evening, it draws hundreds of runners and walkers to the Downtown area…

Photo essays - Meet Me at Maynards walkers and runners completing their last mile around Downtown Tucson, Arizona

The Downtown business community has been very supportive of this event. Here’s a free water and lemonade stand hosted by Janos Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails…

Photo essays - Meet Me at Maynards walkers and runners enjoying free water and lemonade at Janos Downtown, Tucson, Arizona

And there’s Downtown Tucson itself. Full of old-fashioned architecture that’s still hanging in there. Case in point: Meyer Avenue at Franklin Street..

Photo essays - Corner Market on Meyer Avenue, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

A few years ago, the Providence Service Corporation moved its headquarters into Downtown Tucson. Providence has been doing some marvelous restoration work on its building on Broadway Boulevard at Scott Avenue…

Photo essays - Providence Service Corporation headquarters on Broadway Boulevard at Scott Avenue, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Further south on Scott Avenue, there are some interesting footprints in the sidewalk. But fear not. In two years of walking the Meet Me at Maynards course, I have yet to encounter the creatures that left these prints…

Photo essays - Bird and animal footprints in the sidewalk along Scott Avenue in Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Okay, time for the negatives.

You’re probably thinking that I’m going to launch into a rant about the $230 million that’s been spent on Downtown’s Rio Nuevo revitalization project, and how there’s been very little to show for that expenditure. But I’ll spare you. Just read Rob O’Dell’s articles in the Arizona Daily Star if you need to get up to speed.

Instead, I’m going to focus on a more visible topic: Public squalor. It’s something that this guy’s just a few steps away from encountering…

Photo essays - Runner enters the Aviation Underpass, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Yeah, I know. Bad photographer — I just took a picture of my foot…

Photo essays - Broken glass near the Aviation Underpass, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

But look at all that broken glass. It’s just a small sampling of what you’ll find in the Aviation Underpass, which is part of one of the main routes in and out of Downtown. Great first impression of our city, isn’t it?

It gets worse…

Photo essays - Litter in the Aviation Underpass, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Every month, on the third Monday, Meet Me at Maynards organizes a cleanup of Downtown. I’ve been participating for quite a few months, and I’ll have to say that there’s something very satisfying about finishing a three-mile walk with a bag full of garbage.

A couple of months ago, the cleanup boss told us not to try to clean the Aviation Underpass. It had just gotten too filthy for Meet Me at Maynards volunteers to handle. She said that she’d be calling the city.

Well, last time I saw her, she said that she’s called the city four times (emphasis hers). You can see from the above photos how much effect her calls have had.

So, hello, City of Tucson? Are you aware that one of the main drags in and out of Downtown looks like a garbage dump? Do you care?

And what about the graffiti? Plenty of that around Downtown. Please don’t give me that line about how it’s artistic expression by the downtrodden. It’s vandalism. Nothing more. Nothing less…

Photo essays - Graffiti near the Aviation Underpass, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Photo essays - Graffiti along Sixth Avenue, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

Point of history and a little hint for the City of Tucson: As late as the 1980s, the New York subway system had a major problem with graffiti. When William Bratton became chief of the transit police, he led an effort to rid the subway system of graffiti.

It got to the point where tagged trains were called “dirty trains,” and they weren’t allowed to leave the car yard. I might add that the car yard was up in Harlem.

In his book, Turnaround, Bratton told of a little game that his staff played with the graffiti artistes. They let them decorate the trains. And, oh, they spray-painted some masterpieces. Took them several lo-o-o-ong nights to do it.

Bratton’s staff let them finish their work. They even gave the artistes a chance to admire it.

Then the Metropolitan Transit Authority people removed every last bit of graffiti. You could almost hear the chorus of groans from outside the car yard. But the artistes got the message: Keep your graffiti away from MTA property.

Getting tough on graffiti was one of many things that turned the New York subway system away from its fearsome, crime-ridden reputation. Nowadays it’s clean and safe, the people are well mannered, and yes, they’ll even help you find your way. I’ve personally experienced such helpfulness.

I’d like to conclude this post with a look at Tucson’s dumbest intersection. It’s where Fourth Avenue, Congress Street, and Toole Avenue come together. It’s scary in a car, and even worse if you’re a bicyclist or a pedestrian.

One bicyclist has already been killed here, and the trolley isn’t even running yet. Speaking as a bicyclist, I fear for our collective safety…

Photo essays - Intersection of Fourth Avenue, Congress Street, and Toole Avenue, Downtown Tucson, Arizona

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