Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo. Thank you for spending a part of your lunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. This week, we speak with Randi Dorman about 15 years in Tucson development, including her newest project, The Trinity. Today is February 16th. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar.
Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to UArizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming on Downtown Radio.org also available on your iPhone or Android by using our very own app. Just head over to your App Store and download the down town radio Tucson. App and you’ll take us wherever you go.
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Tom Heath: This is episode 123 and we got just about a hundred twenty two others on our website, but we’re going to start today with the Vintage goods for a modern purpose. We talked about the historic Fourth Avenue Coalition on the show before and you can check out those episodes on our web page you just mentioned there. But the historic Coalition is a United group with a mission to preserve the unique identity of the Historic Fourth Avenue. It’s made up of the neighbors, the merchants, the business owners, concerned citizens, and they are working very hard to educate themselves about Community issues, about development and working with developers as they come into the area to find a nice balance between the growth and the culture of Fourth Avenue, which is unlike any place else in Tucson.
Tom Heath: Later today, actually happening right this moment and you can head over after you listen to my show. Of course, unless you have the app, then you can leave right now and listen on your way over there, the White Elephant Vintage Handmade and Rummage sale. It’s happening over on 4th Avenue, it’s going to go on til 3 o’clock today. If you want to stop over in that area the items they’re going to be a pretty eclectic. This was a fundraiser they did last year was kind of their kickoff and they are bringing it back now. So head over to 4th Avenue, if you’re interested, they have the White Elephant Vintage Handmade and Rummage sale.
Tom Heath: And while you’re over on Fourth you might head up to University and check out the newest project of our featured guest today. Brandi Dorman has been in Tucson for over 15 years and has found ways to contribute in so many areas of our community. Most of which is impacting our Urban core. She’s been the chairwoman for the Downtown Tucson Partnership, President of the Museum of Contemporary Art, candidate for mayor and real estate developer. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you busy, well, we found out that she is returned to her Roots as a gymnast. She’s been on stage performing in musicals and she’s a singer in an LA band. All those things didn’t quite make our interview today, but we might have a extended version so you can hear about all of those exploits.
Tom Heath: With an advertising background in New York, she became an unlikely land developer here in Tucson. It all started with an empty ice warehouse. And now along with her husband Rob Paulus, she’s been transforming Tucson ever since. We sat down with Randi to talk about her passion for Tucson, her projects and the details of her most recent development the Trinity on University and Fourth Avenue.
Randi Dorman: I’m Randi Dorman and where we are is our office building at 990 East 17th Street, which is across the street from the Ice House Lofts. When I moved here about 19, 20 years ago I moved from Manhattan and to downtown Tucson, and my husband Rob is from here and I couldn’t understand why there was nothing going on downtown or very little going on. We really wanted to be part of making it happen and bringing it back to life. So we moved into downtown and a few months later we bought an old ice factory next to the railroad tracks just on the edge of downtown with two of our friends and had the crazy idea to turn it into lofts. And at the time there was like I said very little going on downtown and there had been no building converted into residential lofts in all of Arizona actually. Now coming from New York, it was really common. It’s such a cool way to live because you take the history and the authenticity of these Industrial Things and make them relevant for New Generation by turning them into living spaces.
Randi Dorman: So we spent the next few years doing that and creating the Ice House Lofts. It’s 51 Lofts and we live there and we have a 15 year old daughter. We’ve been there for 15 years and as we were doing that project, we realized the potential for this whole neighborhood. So we did a sister project. It’s across the street from the ice house and across the street from where we’re sitting called Barrio Metallico, and those are nine metal loft houses supe,r energy efficient and sustainable and we did those around 2004, 2005. They ended up being home of the year in Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. They were published in the New York Times.
Randi Dorman: And so we were really focused on the ice house, but this little sister project took on a life of its own and and then the building that we’re in with an auto repair shop and it was really fine as an auto repair shop. They worked during the day during the week. But we thought one day somebody else is going to buy this and might turn it into something really disruptive for where everyone was living. So we bought it and then a few years later needed more office space and converted the whole thing into a really modern sustainable office if soul Solar rainwater harvesting it’s a super energy efficient and beautiful building. But there that’s the long way of saying the reason there were sitting here is because we really felt like Tucson needed a central core and the downtown needed to be that and we wanted to be part of making that happen.
Tom Heath: Well a few things have changed since you’ve been out here a little bit downtown has become more of that Central core. Mentioned sustainability as part of your mission and that’s that seems to be evident every one of your projects. Even when you walk into your office. The first thing that I noticed was the bikes on the wall. Yeah, but the helmets there your staff seems to bike in you’ve got the solar panels. You’ve got the charging station out front for the electric cars.
Randi Dorman: It’s really a priority. It’s funny because we’ve been thinking about it for so long. It’s second nature. I mean, it’s always been a core value of ours and And at this point in time, I think it’s irresponsible for it to not be a core value of every developer and anyone building anything. We have to continually think about our impact on the planet. If we don’t we’re all going to be in trouble.
Tom Heath: Well, let’s let’s book and this conversation. Your original project was the Ice House Lofts there have been 15 years or so of of many different projects that we could spend hours talking about but you just recently launched a business just open up in one of your newest projects to so talk about that because that’s another different type of impact on a community but it’s a health center where there wasn’t previously one.
Randi Dorman: Yes, and it’s interesting because it seems like that building just happened but that building was actually eight years in the making and so we just did a beautiful new office building on the corner. Corner of 4th and University next to Thai Market. It’s a 25,000 square foot building and health on University, which is a primary care joint venture between El Rio and Tucson Medical Center opened on the ground floor, and we’re really excited because it’s the perfect service for that neighborhood, but that project got started because the church the Trinity Church that’s on the corner of Fourth and University they’ve been in that location since the 1920s, their congregation shrank and they realized that they had extra land and they had a building that they didn’t really use and they wanted to find a developer who could develop those assets and at the same time create some Financial stability for the church.
Randi Dorman: So initially, the only people that were responding to them were student housing developers and this was in 2011 and they did not want to do student housing. So they put out an RFP and asked us to respond and we we had ideas for how to really make this a residential project with retail and something that would really enhance the neighborhood. Now the key is that in 2011 street car was planned but not yet though. And the church knew that the streetcar was coming and we all had the stories of other communities where they put in something like the streetcar and development was really successful all around that root. So with that in mind, we worked with the neighborhood for years to try to find the right mix of project that would pencil out financially. And be enhancing to the neighborhood. So the church still needed parking. We couldn’t do all residential because on Sundays when all the church goers are there are residents would be there too. So when we figured out that we could do office in the mix as well. That was when we finally were able to get it going.
Randi Dorman: We had a really complex rezoning that took a year and a half and we broke ground in 20. 18 and November and then just completed the office building. And right now we’re in the process of finalizing details for a 58 unit apartment building that has ground floor retail that will be around the corner. So the project is actually two different buildings and all meant to enhance the neighborhood create the the buildings on the church property before really cut. But the neighborhood off they were there wasn’t a way there is no permeability of the site and the way that we have it laid out. We have a lot of permeability so that people can really walk and enjoy the whole site and then we have a lot of great amenities for the neighborhood and the people in the building.
Tom Heath: And the name of the project?
Randi Dorman: The Trinity and after the church, so we have the Trinity Office and the Trinity residential
Tom Heath: And the church is the Trinity Presbyterian church. So now you have Trinity Trinity. No, it’s all connected there.
Tom Heath: We will be back to the conclusion of our interview with Randi Dorman as we get into more of the details of her development some of the sustainable features and her philosophies on developing modern inside of historical neighborhoods, and I want to remind you that you are listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM. And available for streaming on Downtown Radio.org back to our interview with Randi Dorman this segment. We’re going to hear more about their efforts for sustainable development and their philosophies of going in with modern structures into historic neighborhoods.
Randi Dorman: What I really love is that this is truly a mixed-use infill project. So where the office building was before it was an empty Heart and underutilized parking lot. It was asphalt. So again from a sustainability standpoint the heat island effect of just having empty surface Lots, especially when they’re not well used is tremendous. So we now have a building that’s providing a great service to the neighborhood where people can park the people using the building can park during the day retail users can park at night and church users can park. On Sundays. So in a normal Suburban model the way to Sun is really built that would require usually three separate spots for each of those uses and we’re able to combine that into one and so from an utility standpoint.
Randi Dorman: It’s so much more efficient and then part of our parking lot has permeables, a permeable surface so that the water instead of just Going into the streets actually goes down into the ground into the aquifer and where there used to be two beautiful mesquite’s, now there’s actually tons of trees and different plantings. And so it’s a whole it’s a whole different way of looking at sustainability and density in Phil and being next to public transportation where there’s a streetcar stop right, there. It is so important to sustainability. I think often people talk about solar panels and blah blah blah, but really the way that you plan your buildings where they are how they’re cited and how you can access public transportation walkability and bikeability have far greater impact than just putting up some solar panels.
Tom Heath: I understand this may just be rumor. Yes, but you have a pretty good connection with the architect.
Randi Dorman: Yes architect is Rob Paulus? And he happens to be my husband. Everything that we developed together je designs and his designs are amazing. I mean really the joy of developing is to be able to Showcase his work. He always focuses on sustainability and beautiful simple design. They feel great. They use light the right way, they use modern materials and in interesting ways. I love being able to do really beautiful well-thought-out buildings that are going to positively impact the community for generations and stand the test of time.
Tom Heath: I don’t know if this is a Hallmark or just something that I’ve noticed it seems whenever I’m gonna Rob Paulus design space every inches utilized there isn’t really a lot of wasted space or things that are are not Utilitarian even though they’re beautiful. They’re still very functional.
Randi Dorman: Yes. Thank you for noticing that but that is really hard to do but it really is the most efficient use of space and then you don’t have extraneous unnecessary details everything that’s there was meant to be there.
Tom Heath: In some corners, there’s a concern that Tucson is developing too quickly that we’re losing some of our history and our charm and you mentioned you had extensive conversations with the neighborhood.
Randi Dorman: So it’s the West University historic neighborhood, the period of significance for that neighborhood is 1890 to 1920. And there’s some really beautiful historic buildings in that neighborhood from the very first meeting. We said we don’t do fake historic. We do contemporary compatible and we really explain the difference because it’s a their varied philosophies, but the Small historic preservation office really encourages people to in historic neighborhoods preserve what is truly historic make sure that those assets are well preserved, but when you build new build new so that you can tell that there’s a difference. What was built in 1920 should still stand the test of time and you should continually work to make it relevant. But you want people to understand that there’s something new as well and that you show the contrast so we spent a lot of time with the neighborhood really explaining that that’s our philosophy and that we looked at all of the design Assets in the neighborhood. How wide were bays, how tall were Windows, what materials were used? And the building is actually a modern interpretation of the design vernacular that was already existing in the neighborhood. So that was our goal to be contemporary compatible.
Tom Heath: The way that you’re building a sustainable efforts that you’re putting in this this conscious concern. Does that make it more expensive to build does it make it less expensive to maintain?
Randi Dorman: Well, it makes it more expensive to build and what was really interesting. So in that neighborhood there’s actually A a lot of Stucco used but the the West University historic zoning Advisory Board actually asked us to use metal as a skin and not stucco because if that would be more durable and would look be higher quality. So that was definitely more expensive and when you’re doing your pro forma, you have to balance your your land costs and your construction costs with the red that you think you’re going to be able to get as well as your operational cost, so when you build more sustainably there’s some savings and operations, but usually not as much as the extra cost involved depending on what you do.
Tom Heath: I really wanted to talk about trading because that’s the newest project. Yeah kind of excited to see what’s going to happen with the retail and residential you have quite an investment in our community many ways. What are things that you would like to share?
Randi Dorman: I think that every single person in this community has the ability to have a positive impact and I didn’t start off with the intention of being and arts activist or a downtown activist or even running for mayor, but when you see things that can be improved, I think it’s all of our responsibility to figure out how we can Be part of that and so that’s just what I really tried to do on since I got here but along the way when I got involved with the Museum of Contemporary Art. I saw a small Museum that had the potential to do really big things and I think it’s one of the most important institutions in Tucson, especially for demonstrating what’s possible and challenging the standard way of thinking, And then getting so deeply involved with downtown. It’s been such a pleasure, but everyone needs to look around them and see where can I have impact? Where can I help how can I make to some better? Because we have so much potential but we still have so much work that we need to do.
Tom Heath: “So much potential and so much work we still need to do,” those are the words of Randi Dorman. She has a fifteen year plus at this point career in real estate development here in Tucson, has done many things with downtown Tucson partnership, Museum of Contemporary Art, recently ran for mayor and was very gracious with her time on a busy day to sit down with us and share a lot about her philosophies of development.
Tom Heath: My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar, Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot-org. We are approaching the end here of episode number 123 want to thank Randi Dorman again for her time and as a reminder, we do record these shows and unless we have technical difficulties were able to get those on our webpage Life along the streetcar dot-org for rebroadcast and download and all that good stuff think it might be a podcast at that point. I don’t really know how all that stuff works.
Tom Heath: But if you head over there, we’ve got about a hundred and twenty some episodes available for you this one. We’ll be out probably tomorrow takes us a day or so to put it together. We usually will have the entire show – the underwriting spots and we’ll also then carve out just that portion that is Randi’s interview. Okay, so that’s all you might be interested in from the show.
Tom Heath: Other things you might want to check out while you’re on the web over there is head over to our DowntownRadio.org page. If you’re streaming from there. All you have to do is look around, but if you are Listening on the radio or on the app head over to the website when you get a chance. It’s been redone recently and really well-designed webpage now with access to our DJ’s more information easier to navigate, lots of great information on there about all of the shows that we have here in Downtown Radio six days a week fantastic rock and roll, nice mix going on and some specialty shows and then on Sundays they do open it up here for for folks like me to have a little talk show.
Tom Heath: Downtown Radio.org you check out all of our wonderful volunteer DJ’s, volunteer DJ’s. None of them are doing this for the money. They’re doing it for the love and they’re good at what they do. So while you’re on that page don’t don’t stop yourself from clicking on that donate button to give us a couple of bucks to help keep this station going and improving as we seem to do ear over a year. And we always appreciate your support.
Tom Heath: Lots more coming up! We’ve got a couple more shows here in February. Actually one more I think and then we’ll be into March. Holy smokes, talking about Festival of Books all kinds of good things coming down the road get a nice story about the Student Union and lots of other interviews lined up. It’s going to be another busy year.
Tom Heath: We’re going to leave you with music today from a female group. They don’t consider themselves a female group. They consider themselves a rock group that just happens we made up of females. So it’s the Sugar Stains the song is Change and it’s off their 2014 album, which can’t really say the name of but it rhymes with itch slap. And this is the Sugar Stains. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a fantastic week into next Sunday for more Life along the streetcar.