. Tucson's Burgeoning Rio Nuevo District Is Transforming Downtown | Successful Meetings

Tucson's Burgeoning Rio Nuevo District Is Transforming Downtown

New hotels, shops and attractions, a revamped convention center and more are in the works.

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In Tucson, the Rio Nuevo neighborhood is revitalizing downtown with an aggressive slate of new offerings. The area is designated a Tax Increment Finance District, funded by a share of state sales-tax dollars. In partnership with developers, real estate investment firms and other entities, the district is investing in new shops, offices, restaurants and entertainment. This effort already has helped attract professional hockey to the Tucson Arena, now home of the AHL's Western Conference champions, the Tucson Roadrunners.

In addition, five hotel projects are part of the Rio Nuevo development and will add a total of more than 600 guest rooms to downtown, helping to draw larger conventions to the city. The new properties comprise the following.

• A 109-room Moxy and a 140-room Element will be housed in a new 16-story tower to rise over the historic Rialto Theater, which opened in 1920. The theater will close for approximately two years as the work proceeds, during which time the Rialto's shows will be relocated to the nearby landmark Corbett Building.

Teaming up on this $88 million project are Rudy Dabdoub and Scott Stiteler, who built the 136-room AC Hotel Tucson Downtown, a Marriott property that opened in 2017 across the street. 

• Fayth Hospitality Group, a Hilton Hotels developer, plans to build a dual-branded property - a 75-room Hampton Inn and a 123-room Home2 Suites - across the street from St. Augustine Cathedral. Fayth managing partner Greg Fay said that his group hopes to begin construction this June with an opening set for the end of 2020.

• A fifth hotel is being developed at the Tucson Convention Center. The 170-room Caliber will be anchored at the center, which currently offers 205,000 square feet of meeting and event space spread among 24 meeting rooms, along with an 8,962-seat arena.

Meanwhile, the Rio Nuevo board of directors has voted to solicit bids to finance up to $50 million in capital improvement projects to the convention center. Planned projects include remodeling the ballroom, exhibit halls and meeting rooms, adding a separate conference room and updating the lighting and sound systems. Also getting a refresh is the facility's on-site Tucson Music Hall. According to Rio Nuevo board chair Fletcher McCusker, "If we want the Tucson Convention Center to be our Lincoln Center, we have to do this work."

"What's happened in Tucson's downtown in recent years has been remarkable, adding more opportunities for dining, nightlife, culture and more, while still keeping the character of Tucson intact," said Dan Gibson, Visit Tucson's director of communications. "The new hotels planned for downtown will help showcase the sort of experiences both business, meetings and leisure visitors can enjoy here."