Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Zach Baker. He is the deputy director for the Downtown Tucson Partnership. We’re going to hear about some current events and future plans.

Today is July 19th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

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 the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org– we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook @Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with John Doe

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from the Typical Hunks, “Grilled Chese.”

Downtown Tucson Climbs Out of COVID with Zach Baker

Our featured guest today is Zach Baker. He is the deputy director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. We call it DTP and we’re quite fond of the purple-shirted ambassadors that keep our streets safe and clean.

Zach is one of the staff members there that makes all of that happen. We caught up with him just a couple of days ago by phone to find out what’s been going on in downtown and what are we going to see in the future?

Transcript

Tom Heath
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station.

Tom Heath
On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Zach Baker. He is the deputy director for the Downtown Tucson Partnership. We’re going to hear about some current events and future plans.

Tom Heath
Today is July 18th. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar. 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 and we’re also available on your iPhone or Android head over to your respective app stores. And you want to get Downtown Radio Tucson, that’s our app. You take us wherever you go and you can hear our fabulous DJs and show hosts all over the world.

Tom Heath
And if you want to get us here on the show, our email addresses contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org, we have Facebook, we have Twitter, our podcast is available, just about anywhere you’re going to find podcasts. Our episodes are housed on our website, lifelong streetcar dot-org, and you can simply ask your smart speaker to play Life along the streetcar podcast.

Tom Heath
Well, we’re going to start Today Show by heading over to Main Gate Square and finding out about a little music happening there as they have revived their Main Gate Square, Productions of a Friday Night Jazz. This is a free jazz concert series. It’s been going on on Fridays during the summer and there are few presentations left. This is found over there and University Boulevard, and that Jeronomo Plaza, believe you can get validated parking in the evenings. And tickets are admission is free, but they do require tickets obtained through their website and which you can find at Main Gate Square.

Tom Heath
This Friday, After Hours is going to be the band and they’ve got saxophonist Autumn Dominguez and I’ve heard them play in the past, they’re pretty good. Then August 6th and 13th and 20th will wrap up the series, but you can find out all that stuff on Main Gate Square on the East End of the streetcar route.

Tom Heath
While in the West End is downtown Tucson and our featured guest today is Zach Baker. He is the deputy director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. We call it DTP and we’re quite fond of the purple shirted Ambassadors that keep our streets safe and clean. Zach is one of the staff members there that makes all of that happen. We caught up with him just a couple of days ago by phone to find out what’s been going on in downtown and what are we going to see in the future?

Zach Baker
Zach Baker, deputy director at the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

Tom Heath
So, the downtown Tucson partnership. We’ve had a few stories about that organization. Tell us about the about the sort of what actually DTP is. And who it serves?

Zach Baker
We were created in 1998 to implement enhanced Municipal services for the downtown business improvement district, and that’s kind of a funky shaped district. And what most Tucsonans I think would consider the core of downtown where all the larger buildings are, bordered by the train tracks to the north, approximately to 14th Street. South almost to I-10 to the west and then around Fourth Avenue and South 4th Avenue to the East and we basically try and be the primary advocate for downtown Tucson.

Zach Baker
And I mean our top priorities to provide the core services to that downtown business improvement district including Economic Development initiatives and programs, clean and safe initiatives including 15. What downtown owners like to call the purple shirts. They are safety and maintenance ambassadors on the streets, a number of marketing initiatives, and just relationship building with the merchants, property owners and other downtown stakeholders.

Zach Baker
A lot of our budget goes to clean and safe initiatives. The folks you see on the streets and purple shirts are downtown 24/7, and they’re really essential people for our downtown community that are constantly picking up litter, power-washing the sidewalks. We’re responding to calls when businesses need support and deescalating certain situations and just being extra eyes on the streets of downtown, making sure that our community is a safe place for all folks.

Zach Baker
And then we do a number of beautification and green scape initiatives, you’ll see approximately 200 City Planters within the downtown Court, we filled those with either drought tolerant trailing Vines, plants, and it just adds to the beauty and making downtown kind of a pleasant place to be.

Tom Heath
The planter program. That’s that’s a partnership. If I understand correctly with the organization called Desert Survivors, correct?

Zach Baker
That’s correct, Desert Survivors, they are, a 501, c, 3 organization and they actually operate a native plant nursery just south west of downtown and they started in 1981. And the with the purpose of creating meaningful, dignified employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And so these folks anywhere in groups of Five to ten people come downtown every weekday with a mentor and fill those Planters and with these grown from seed plants but they also have expanded their services downtown to do Litter abatement for us. They do a number of landscaping initiatives and also just as extra purple shirts on the streets.

Tom Heath
That’s an interesting partnership but I think as we were coming out of covid or as we are coming out of covid, I should say, it seemed like that was a pivotal role that I can tell from dtp, Was that Partnerships, you know, working with Tucson Police working with the city, working with the county and just sort of being that, that glue that kept everything together and that in that, that District that you describe.

Zach Baker
Partnership is kind of in our organizations name. And it’s not just Ourselves as staff members who are doing a lot of the work that you see. But a lot of strategic Partnerships with the City of Tucson, multiple departments, and multiple people within those departments, working with us working with our board members on a number of different programs and different initiatives, ultimately, to support downtown in our business Community.

Zach Baker
But also Pima County, who was really pivotal and our covid-19 response. Specifically, the federal dollars that came in last year that we re-granted to downtown businesses through two different grants, The Outdoor Cafe Grant, which gave people up to businesses up to five thousand dollars to either expand their outdoor patios or create new ones.

Zach Baker
The other grant that we offered was the Downtown Rebound Grant. Up to a $2,000 Max and we awarded, we were able to award 49 businesses, with a total of 87. A little over $87,000.

Tom Heath
Nice. And I know when, you know, it in this is, I guess old news at this point, it’s been a year but when the pandemic really started to take hold downtown, Downtown Tucson partnership, you and Kathleen Erickson CEO, really kind of jumped in with a gift card program and raised funds, privately to match certain donations. And remember the total amount that was ultimately raised to that program for downtown businesses?

Zach Baker
Yeah, the dtp gift card incentive program raised approximately three hundred and eight thousand dollars and that was in about 2 months and we did Nine rounds of gift card sales in total. It was 8800 gift cards sold and these gift cards came from about 70 Local downtown businesses that opted in to participate.

Zach Baker
You bought a $25 gift card from the downtown Tucson partnership and you got to choose your favorite participating downtown business. And then we would add 10 more dollars for free. So the total gift card you would get was $35 even though you pay $25. And that ten dollar incentive was made possible through a number of different sponsors through those nine rounds. Dtp chipped in that initial ten thousand dollars the first round. And then it was so successful. We sold out I believe in 28 hours in the first round of and gift cards.

Tom Heath
Well my guess is. Those gift cards are starting to be redeemed because there are more people on the streets of Tucson in the downtown area. And after the break we’re going to find out more from Zach about the expectations from the downtown Tucson partnership. But I do want to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot-org.

Tom Heath
Welcome back. We’re going to finish up the interview we did with a Zach Baker. A couple of days ago by phone. He has shared with us kind of the history and philosophy and mission of downtown Tucson partnership and now we’re going to see some of that in action as we gear up for the end of summer fall and into the next five years.

Zach Baker
So actually live downtown in the core and I’ve lived here for about four years and I’m able to patronize a lot of the local businesses, which is pretty dangerous because as you know, there’s a ton of amazing restaurants. So my favorites and a Thai Bistro and even Hub restaurant and Ice Creamery the Cup Cafe. Saying that pre covid and then post covid. It’s not recovered yet, but I think that we’re getting there. I also Park in one of the parking garages downtown and just seeing the increase of cars each weekend. Just it feels like there’s more people, more and more people coming back downtown just for dinner and I think that’s a good sign.

Zach Baker
Given that there’s not shows at the Fox Theater. There’s not live shows at the Rialto, even though they’re doing a really cool Rialto Theater Gallery project right now, they’re not major events downtown that are attracting thousands of people on a given night. So I think that we’re going to Get there, we will continue to see a lot of interest in our downtown area as far as development projects. But kind of currently what’s what continued during the pandemic was some housing projects that are going up and that are about to come on line. One of which the gallery on Fifth Avenue is Brand new market rate, apartment community, obviously very close to a lot of the local shops, coffee shops, co-working spaces and just everything that the downtown has to offer including the free streetcar, which is free until the end of December.

Tom Heath
We got to keep telling people that I keep forgetting to mention that on the show that they have that option for for That was extended. We got to keep reminding them of that. And I was at a Merchants meeting not too long ago. I think it was maybe last month, and you are sort of highlighting the number of businesses that were opening opening in downtown. Which it seemed kind of surprising given covid, but there are actually a lot of entrepreneurs, taking the, the leap into opening up their doors or expanding their businesses downtown.

Zach Baker
Yeah, absolutely. And there are a lot of really cool Concepts that, I hope people have a chance to come experience themselves during covid. We lost a number of amazing businesses Concepts and restaurants that have been down here for decades total just within our downtown business improvement, district area about nine, businesses closed, eight of those work, Games due to the pandemic but we did have 10 new businesses that opened and all of 2020, but fit Boutique Studio opened in January, Southern New Hampshire University there. An operation Center actually right on Congress Street and they relocated about 250, 300 jobs and those folks will help online students that are located kind of in the western. Part of the United States Donut Bar opened in February. If you haven’t checked out yet. Donut Bar

Tom Heath
talk about dangerous

Zach Baker
They recently launched all these grilled cheese donuts.

Tom Heath
So we have a fitness studio in a place serving donuts and grilled cheese sandwiches together. So that might be a good combination of pair of those two up. So you can add over the fitness studio afterwards and In work off some of those calories but and I think, if you can go to the website that you have downtown Tucson dot dot org.com,

Zach Baker
yes downtown Tucson that word but thinking you’re mentioning about the business Trends.

Tom Heath
Well yeah so they have a you have a really well-designed website know just kind of glancing through it. Look at it, kind of regularly but you do have all of these businesses that had opened and you know, you’ve got more opening here in 2021. And I think just in general wanted to it. I think I was surprised to see so much activity in the opening section of businesses and less than the closing section. I was, I was kind of surprised to see that in that in that in that break down on your website.

Zach Baker
Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of things to look forward to. I think a lot of people are optimistic. I’m really excited specifically about what’s happening over at the Pima County. The old historic Pima County courthouse on Church Avenue. The U of A’s Gem and Mineral museum is actually going to open here soon for general admission and to do sort of a soft opening. But they have a ton of gems minerals and different specimens from all over the world. And I think it’s going to go really well with our annual Gem and Mineral Museum or Gem and Mineral show, excuse me.

Tom Heath
We’re expecting to see a job and mineral show back and maybe not in the same capacity, but in a large capacity in 2022. Is that fair? Is that a fair statement?

Zach Baker
Yes. Yeah, I think, I think we will see that. It returned.

Tom Heath
What do you think has there been any discussion about the holiday festivities? The parade of the Parade of Lights in that type of environment? Are we? Are we going to see something like that again in downtown?

Zach Baker
Yeah, so what downtown Tucson partnership facilitates is what we call Desert Nights Downtown Lights, and it’s five weeks of festivities in our downtown. This year, it might be a little bit different. We’re still Kind of waiting on to see, you know how the the city of Tucson’s special events process will go. I think that there’s still things that large events that attract thousands of people need to follow us as far as safety, protocols go, but we might see that change, you know, there’s a lot of events that have announced dates like TMC meet me downtown, they do a 5k with is usually in the night. They’re doing it in the daytime or the early morning this year. It’s going to be on August 22nd at Armory Park in Children’s Museum to some me yourself. There they have a date of October 8th, through 10th desk, Music, Festival, as a date of November 13th, and 14th. So I think people have put those major events in this special events process and I think that we’re going to learn some more within the next month.

Tom Heath
So they’ve they’ve announced the date. They’re still working with the city on the protocols. Is that what I’m hearing?

Zach Baker
That’s right.

Tom Heath
I can just imagine like Tucson meet yourself that. I’m just very curious to see how they end up organizing that and structuring it in this and these crazy times.

Zach Baker
Yeah, as you know, it’s like It’s a huge event but I think that they’re going to do a much smaller footprint and focus on kind of the educational piece of what that event is about.

Tom Heath
Okay, well downtown Tucson partnership. You got a ton of top priorities. It seems like everything on your website is a top priority. What else is it? You know, before we wrap up here, what are things that you wanted to share with us? Or anything, we didn’t cover that you think is important for us to get out?

Zach Baker
Yeah, I definitely wanted to and I know you shared it through your channels Tom. So thank you, but our future priorities for downtown Tucson survey. Essentially, it’s intended to inform a strategic planning process rhat the downtown Tucson partnership is currently going through and it’s going to guide our work over the next five years and Your input will help identify priorities and inform, where we focus our time and resources within the next five years. Based on the feedback. So go ahead and go over to downtown Tucson dot-org. And there is a link near the top of the home page. You’ll see a link for future priorities for downtown Tucson. If you just click on that and it will take you to the survey.

Tom Heath
Who, what input are you looking for people that work downtown Loop downtown? On people anyone?

Zach Baker
this survey is intended to be more broadly distributed to anyone who lives Works downtown or doesn’t live or work downtown. We want to get everyone’s feedback as much as possible on their perception and perception of downtown and where these folks think we should focus our efforts,

Tom Heath
Because that’s when we noticed this last weekend, How we shared it was that even if you aren’t engaged in the downtown core, you know, the downtown in most cities become sort of a lifeblood of the city itself. So you should have input on how downtown is developed even if it’s not a priority place for you personally.

Zach Baker
Yes. Absolutely. You know, I think it was visit Tucson that had like a stat that was 80% of visitors that visit Tucson, visit downtown. So I don’t know why that’s relevant.

Tom Heath
I think that’s very relevant. People are coming to town for any reason, you know, 80% of them want to find their way into that Urban core. And I think that probably stretches I would imagine that stretches through Fourth Avenue in the University as well. I loved it too. To find that stat because I could use that in some other things that were talking about. Well, mr. Baker, congratulations, on your recent promotion because you are the deputy director at downtown Tucson partnership. That one didn’t happen. When did that happen?

Zach Baker
That happened in late April and You know, as we look to possibly hire another administrative staff person to fill my former role marketing Communications type person. I’ll hopefully focus on more Economic Development initiatives, especially as we come out with a new strategic plan and focus on kind of the storefront economy, attracting businesses to vacant storefronts that really And kind of to the needs of our downtown.

Tom Heath
Well, Mr. Baker, I really appreciate your time today. I look forward to the things that are happening. I know, personally in the downtown area, very appreciative of the work that the downtown Tucson partnership, the staff, and those purple shirt ambassadors do down here. So, thanks for your time and share our appreciation with the team.

Zach Baker
Of course, and thank you for all that. You do Tom for us and for Tucson.

Tom Heath
Zach Baker, deputy director downtown Tucson partnership. Thanks for spending time with us by phone and sharing with us. Some of the outlook for our Urban core. Well my name is Tom. Hey if you are listening to Life along the streetcar and Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org.

Tom Heath
Well, thanks for spending another Sunday afternoon with us. We are finishing up here episode number, 160 160. And if you ever have topics for us, that you would like us to broadcast, then hit us up on contact at Life. Along the streetcar dot o head over to Facebook. Instagram, tag us like a share us, whatever. Just hook up and connect with us.

Tom Heath
Don’t go anywhere after our show. We’ve got Ted ski with words and work, talking of those in the labor movement. And, you know, I don’t do this enough on, how about a shout-out to DJ Bank, the musical bum who has the art of easing on Sundays, right before us and leads into our show have. I hope you’ve tuned in and listen to that most of you probably are just listening now because you are listening to his show and just forgot to turn off the radio and I’m cool with that. Because DJ bank is one of my favorite DJs on downtown radio but don’t tell anyone else that cuz I tell all the DJ’s, they’re my favorite.

Tom Heath
Hey let me ask you this. What do you get when you put a bunch of Of individuals on scooters drive them all over downtown as they partake in restaurants art and other festivities in the urban core. I’ll tell you what, you get, you get a Shish show. Now, you heard me right? A shish show. And this is a group that’s trying to support local. Have a little fun and doing it on scooters. We thought it would be interesting to chat with them. So we’ve got one of the lead Shish heads, I guess you would call them on the show next week. So it’s gonna be a fun Fun interview. Hope you tune in next Sunday for that one.

Tom Heath
Again, all of our past episodes are in life along the streetcar dot-org. We’re going to be found anywhere you find podcasts. Ask your smart speaker to play us. We’ve got a hundred and sixty episodes of really cool people. Doing really cool things in Tucson and I hope you have a chance to listen to all of them. But hey, we’re going to fade out with a little music today that I think our guest is Zach Baker would certainly enjoy. This is a song by a group called Typical Hunks. Oh, and the name of this song is “Grilled Cheese”. Hope you have a great week into next Sunday for more Life, along the streetcar.

This page provided by The Heath Team at Nova Home Loans®

Tom Heath - Senior Loan Officer with Nova Home Loans
['__hb_namespace']
['__hb_namespace']
[h]
[h]
X