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

Grand Vision: Crafting Community and Culture in Tucson’s Heart

Mosaic Murals by Ben's Bells at Event Center in the heart of Downtown
Mosaic Murals by Ben’s Bells at Event Center in the heart of Downtown


In this transformative episode of “Life Along the Streetcar,” we journey into the very essence of Tucson’s evolving landscape with “The Grand” — a project that promises to redefine what it means to live, work, and thrive in our city. Host Tom Heath welcomes Nicholas Wayne and John Hardin, the visionary architects behind “The Grand,” to discuss this monumental project’s impact on our community.

Episode Highlights

  • The Inspiration Behind The Grand: Uncover the story of how Nicholas Wayne and John Hardin conceived “The Grand,” driven by a desire to enrich Tucson’s cultural and community fabric.
  • A Community-Centric Vision: Discover how “The Grand” is designed to be more than just a development project, but a hub of creativity, connection, and community engagement, promising to invigorate the heart of Tucson.
  • Looking Towards the Future: Delve into the planned features of “The Grand” and how it aims to blend Tucson’s rich heritage with forward-thinking design to create a vibrant, inclusive space.

Join the Conversation

Are you intrigued by “The Grand” and its promise to elevate the Tucson community? Do you want to learn more about this and other exciting developments reshaping downtown Tucson and its surrounding areas? Your insights, questions, and ideas are invaluable to us.

Contact Tom Heath to dive deeper into the story of “The Grand” and discover the plethora of incredible opportunities awaiting in Tucson. Join us in shaping a bright, inclusive future for our beloved city.

Transcript (Unedited)

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, all -volunteer -powered Rock and Roll Radio Station. On this week’s show, we’re gonna have Nick Wayne and John Harden, the forces behind Highwire Lounge, and they’re on the cusp of opening a brand new concept, as well as a collaboration with Ben’s Bells. We’ll get all that story in just a few minutes. Today is March 10th, 2024. My name is Tom Heath, and you are 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 University of Arizona and all stops in between you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM streaming on downtownradio .org also available on your iPhone or Android by using our very own downtown radio Tucson app. And

if you want to interact with us on the show, we recommend you do that through Facebook and Instagram. And if you want more information about us, the book, past episodes, or just simply to contact us, head over to lifealongthestreetcar .org. And as always, we encourage you to listen to that podcast wherever you happen to enjoy those podcasts, like Spotify and iTunes and places like that. What is the Sunday of the Festival of Books? So I am The show is recorded here a couple days ago, and I am out and about trying to Keep my head about me as thousands of people are on the U of A Mall And I hope maybe I’ll see you out there later on today all kinds of things happening you know I’ve been one of the things I’ve been involved with the Tucson Gallery now for a a little over a year and it kind of gotten a much better perspective as to the ebb and flow of our Our visitors and it’s just amazing to me How many people come from all over the globe and and just really enjoy the things happening in downtown

Tucson as I talked to them It’s it’s a variety of things that bring them some, you know, it’s the the hiking and the weather Some it’s the music and the jazz or the food And talked to someone recently that was just here because they’re out and about scouting places for an upcoming birding trip I think they’re gonna do in April and in the area. So who knows why you come to Tucson? We love it that you’re here and those of those businesses that are Catering to tourism. This is a great time of year for them as well Our guests today. We’ve got Nick and John They are the driving forces that came together almost 10 years ago to open up High Wire Lounge in a small little space off of really an alley in downtown, and it just really took off. Extremely popular, has expanded, expanded, expanded, and they’re at it again with a brand new concept that should be opening here in the next couple of months for sure. hopefully sooner than that. I had a chance to meet up with them earlier in the week. We sat

down over at the Tucson Gallery Studios and chatted about the project and some cool collaborations they’re doing with with Ben’s Bells and keeping everything in Tucson in focus in the new space. We have I think downtown royalty in the studio here today. We’re broadcasting from the Tucson Gallery Studios as tight quarters as we’re trying out this new video components. But we’ve got Nick and John from Highwire who have been, how long has Highwire been open? It’ll be nine years this summer. Nine years? June 2015. Oh my goodness. So 10 years ago what were you doing? I just got here from Alaska and I met Nick through his cousin actually. I was working at a famous Sam’s when I first got here and Nick was in the process of building the bar and I came in like first week and we started with just 800 square feet. Yeah, I remember the shoebox, but so much of that early bar that I remember was the chemical, I don’t know what the word is that I’m looking for, but how you spherify alcohol. Molecular

mixology. Molecular mixology, but didn’t you bring that to the table? So, Nick had been working with it, prior to me getting there, and I had been working with it up in Alaska and some other places. And we brought our heads together and tried to create something that had the ability to be served to a mass versus just a few people, like in most places where you find it. So, I mean, this just seems odd to me that you have this molecular mixology and someone from Alaska just happens into town at the time you’re creating a bar. Is this, I mean, this is just luck? Yeah. Manifest destiny, divine intervention. That’s their biography, by the way. It was luck. And then they’re done. It’s a one -page. Yeah. And we’ve just have, right from the get -go, have complimented each other. Um, over the years we’ve learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses, um, and we fill in nowhere needed. Um, and it’s just been wonderful, wonderful nine years. Fantastic. And over those nine years, let’s see your, something

has changed about your location. I forget what it was. It’s, it seems like it went in and it was a little bit larger or something. Yeah. A couple of years in, we were kind of just busting at the seams. People were really loving our cocktails and loving our, our environment. And so we first, we took an additional part of the patio that we leased from the Johnny Gibson’s market and doing a partnership with them. And then once that was full, the place next to us, the old independent distillery moved out and we moved in. So like a weed, just came. There you go. And then speaking of Johnny Gibson’s, there’s more exciting news coming this year as far as stuff on that horizon. So we’ll have to come back. Yeah, I can’t keep track of all the exciting news because I know you and I talked when you were doing the expansion. Yes. And I remember the part of it was the water harvesting and some of the sustainability features that you were building into it. Yep. And then you added a restaurant, right?

We did. We threw our name in the hat. And so, yeah, we built out a commercial kitchen space, operated Highwires bar slash restaurant, and it did what it did. Restaurants definitely a whole other creature. But as time went on, that space got consumed by what will be the event center. So that kitchen will service the Grand, which is a soon to be open 6 ,000 square foot event space. Yeah. And that’s sort of the point of today’s interview was I’m walking around and I’m finding out that all of a sudden this, this, this empty space, it’s been there for years. It’s been empty. Right. Um, apparently there’s been something going on behind the scenes in there. And, and, uh, it’s called the grand. Yes. The grand two or the grand at Gibson court. Okay. Yeah. Love that. You’re keeping the name in there. Sure, sure. And the grand, so tell us, it’s an event center. What does that mean? Oh, um, our partners in this, um, Kelly and Ronnie Abbott from Johnny Gibson’s market who previous owners of Rincon market,

historically they’ve owned event centers. They currently own star dance, um, up in Marana. Um, they’ve owned park Avenue event center, um, Bates mansion. So putting on events specifically weddings is their, their thing, um, their well -oiled machine. Um, and so I think with the grand, that’s going to be the majority of our business will probably be weddings, weddings for couples that want a more downtown urban experience. And then from a, like a layout perspective, it’s, it’s, it’s connected, right? and it’s all part of the footprint? Yeah, it’s all connected. You’ll be able to have your event in the grand and you and your guests will be able to just walk down the hallway and walk into our beautiful patio and get to experience Highwire afterwards if you want. And then, because you built out the kitchen, now you’ve got a catering service right in there for them as well. Yes. Oh, fantastic. This is, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve really come to love about Tucson is the repurposing

of space. And it’s, we’re not tearing stuff down and rebuilding. We’re looking at what’s there and how can we use that? And I mean, did you nine and a half years ago, I mean, what was your vision for this? Was it, okay, we’re gonna take over and we’re gonna take over that and we’re gonna do an event center and? I was gonna get High Wire off the ground, move back to Scottsdale to real estate. And then very quickly it became evident that this is a full -time job. Yeah. And yeah, it’s been John and I since and all kinds of things, pandemic it, you know, we went from however many employees down to just John and I hawking t -shirts and bottled cocktails out of the alley. I remember that. Yeah, the scary times. Had a drive -thru going through the avenues. Yeah, did what we had to do to stay afloat. And here we are now. Yeah. Highwire 7 ,500 square feet, two buildings, big courtyard. We’re adding the Grand, and then there’s more stuff coming. That was Nick Wayne, one of the co -owners and founder

of High Wire Lounge. He and his partner, John Hardener, chatting about their upcoming venture with the Grand, taking over a space there in downtown. We’re going to hear more about the layout of the space, the inspiration, and some nice tie -ins with Benz Bells and other history of downtown. My name is Tom Heath. If you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar and Downtown Radio, 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtownradio .org.

Support for Downtown Radio is provided by the Tucson Gallery, located in downtown Tucson inside of the proper shops at 300 East Congress Street. The Tucson Gallery offers original work, reproductions, and merchandise from Tucson artists like Joe Pacek, Jessica Gonzalez, Ignacio Garcia, and many more. For information about all of the artists, including when they will be live at the gallery. Head to the TucsonGallery .com or find them on Instagram and on Facebook as Tucson Gallery.

Hey if you’re just joining us we’ve got Nick Wayne and John Harden of High Wire Lounge talking about their almost 10 years together and the fortunes that brought them to to the same spot here in Tucson to create High Wire and how it’s expanded over the years, now discussing their latest concept which should be opening here in a few weeks, hopefully less than a couple of months, and want to get more information about the layout and what to expect from the new space they call the grand. Just to kind of give some perspective, last tenant was the drawing studio, right? Yes. And they vacated when the courtyard got going or Gibson, the whole property in general in 2014, I believe, and they’ve moved up north of here, and it’s kind of cool. So they had some murals out front, tile murals, which are being replaced with our Ben’s Bells project. And they had made custom wrought iron gates, which we’re going to return to them. So they’ll have it back at their space, which is pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah.

Again, I like that. You’re not, you’re not destroying stuff. It’s, it’s finding the right, the right fit for it. But tell me more about the, you have a collaboration with Ben’s Bells. Yes. So they’re creating two new anchoring, each side of the front exterior here on 6th Avenue of the Grand, these tile mosaic murals. Oh, wow. It’ll be like a day and an evening version that represents Tucson. And what we’re offering for all the lovely residents and folks in Tucson, we’ll be selling the bordering tiles that go around. Ben’s Bells can write out a custom message up to four lines, 10 characters per tile. Oh, so this is like a, I’m assuming this is like a fundraiser. You’re not just doing that for, I don’t know, you’re like, But it’s a fundraiser and it’s to, to take care of Ben’s bells and then so they can do the mural. Exactly. Yup. And then anytime you’re downtown, you can come find your tile, visit it, take a picture. So that’s currently going on. Would we be able to post a link? Yeah, we

can, we can post links for sure. Yeah. We’re fancy like that. If I, if I do it right, there’ll be like a video and there’ll be even a link right there. You can click below or as a Shane Rizer says, smash the subscribe button. There you go. I don’t know what that means, but I put a subscribe button on, but I didn’t go anywhere because I didn’t know where to win, but he said it. So perfect for YouTube.

So, uh, so you’re, what are the details on you? Uh, you, you, you’re paying $10 ,000 for a square. Um, no, you’re, you’re paying a hundred dollars. That’s better. Yeah. So these, these murals, they’ll have bordering bordering tiles. Um, each one is for sale. Ben’s Bells will write your message. You can have up to four lines, 10 characters per line. They’ll write your message. It’ll go in the kiln, get fired, and then be installed permanently for generations to come. So it’s not a part of the nighttime and daytime escape, but it’s like the frame. It’s like the frame. The frame, exactly. Oh, that’s perfect. Yep, and they’re $100 a piece, which I think is reasonable to be a part of downtown, possibly forever. Yeah, supporting Ben’s Bells and getting their message out of kindness. And if you’re not familiar with Ben’s Bells, you know, there’s information. We’ve done some interviews with them and you can find that on our website too. You can just search Ben’s Bells and Helen over there is doing

a fantastic job and just the organization in general. So the event center, the grand, do we have like a launch date or is this one of those, like it launches the second, like the second we know, we’ll tell you. Pretty much. It’s getting very close and it’s exciting. I believe this week, next week, chandeliers are gonna rise, finally. These massive chandeliers, there’s six of them. That’ll be exciting once they go up. And the one time I toured the space, it was just after you had expanded into the Independent and there were a lot of like Johnny Gibson memorabilia and things in there. Is that still floating around or did the family take that? No, they have a museum that they keep all of the John and Gibson stuff in his barber chairs and his medals and newspaper clippings. Where’s the museum? So it’s right between the Grand and Highwire. It’s hidden. It’s not open to the public. But what John and Gibson’s son is doing is actually taking the articles and the pictures and creating this beautiful

mural going down the hallway. That’s a, okay. So connecting Highwire and the Grand from the courtyard will be kind of this indoor breezeway that is basically an homage to, to Johnny Gibson. So it’ll have kind of a pictorial timeline of his life, a huge photo mural on one wall. Then there will be kind of like a dioramas, but it’ll be real life. So it’ll be a window when set back and feature some actual real life archives, like pieces, his barber’s chair, weightlifting equipment that he manufactured. So if this is the first time you’re listening and get in, let’s, can you give a brief history of who Johnny Gibson was or why this is important? So Johnny Gibson was a gentleman, but he owned Gibson Gym Equipment and was on the forefront for many, many years in the advancement of fitness and worked out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and had a barber shop here downtown and had his manufacturing and his warehouse and his showroom floor here downtown for his gym equipment. We still have people that

come in today asking about Johnny Gibson, is he still around? Or I remember when I was four or five years old, my dad took me to get my hair cut over at Johnny Gibson’s and he would tell them stories And, um, he was, he was airborne and, and a number of, of number of metals. So the footprint, his, his gym equipment was, was it the whole footprint? So that was Johnny Gibson’s market and the grant. So it was pretty expansive and they manufactured showroom, everything. Okay. So that’s why we keep referencing him. And, and I didn’t know there was a, uh, a private museum. I guess you probably. Yeah. It’s kind of the archives for, for the, uh, where the family has everything. like that. That’s the, that’s the archives, right? You got it. You can’t just walk in and you got to get a schedule some time there. And I’m going to look into, I know we need to get you in there. But a lot of these pieces will be brought out and showcased in this hallway that will connect on the courtyard and high wire

to the grand. Okay. So chandeliers are going up soon. And then what is that? That means you’re getting close. Lighting goes up. You’re getting close. We do know from, from being downtown and from, you know, expanding high wire as we have that there’s no ever a guarantee of when you’re going to get to open. You have permits and inspections and you know just this last couple of weeks we were working on getting TEP in and they’re super busy so that we could get more power in there and you know all of these things so we don’t don’t want to say you know oh we’re gonna open you know April 1st and And then get pushed back. April Fool’s. Right. But it’ll be, you think it’ll be within the next few months? Oh, within the next month or two. Oh, fantastic. Very, very close. So we’re airing this here in mid -March. So hopefully by the end of April it should be. Oh, yeah. Okay. And are you taking, do you have bookings or can people book yet? So we’ve started doing tours and that’s Kelly who, the Abbots

are business partners in this. Kelly is spearheading that and getting tours started. Okay. A lot of interest. So that’s exciting. And where do people find it? Is there a website? How do people get find out more about? I believe it’s being worked on it might be up It’s the grand Tucson calm. Okay, and we’ll put a link there and share on social media when it’s Officially inactive and then where’d the name come from? We threw around so many names So honestly, we had originally planned on going in a direction of a more like barn style or country style rustic rustic and then we had gotten ahold of these beautiful chandeliers, as he’s saying, the chandeliers are going up and they were just really grand. Wow, I do remember, again, when you, when we’re looking at the space, there was this concept of maybe having like, like a barn style, you know, downtown, which has its own sort of unique flair to it. And then when you said chandeliers, I’m like, okay, I’m going to have to – Yeah, shift it. So

Kelly, yeah, got ahold of these chandeliers that came out of an event space that had closed. And so then that in her mind shifted. And so she came up with this other direction that, you know, just destiny meant to be more modern, more streamlined. I think that’s the vision of this space is destiny. I mean, the fact that two of you met 10 years ago and have this similar interest. And I don’t know if molecular mixology is a huge thing, but for two people in Tucson to be sharing that when there really isn’t anything else. and then, you know, to be able to have all that space and just be at the right time for that space to come available and the partnerships you forged with the market. And I just think it’s, it just seems like it’s destiny that that’s gonna be your corner. Yeah, there’s definitely no master plan. It’s all been very organic. And I think that’s why people might gravitate towards Highwire and towards the courtyard in the market. It’s not overly polished or overly hyped or overly,

you know, done up. It’s, I think, very authentic for Tucson. And I think people gravitate towards it for that reason. And you get a piece of that if you want to support downtown local business, Ben’s Bells, and get a little promotion for yourself or a cause or a family member or someone that’s loved downtown and put something about them on there. My mind is kind of spinning with a few things that I can certainly do as well on that. Well, Nick, John, I appreciate what you’ve done for downtown. I appreciate what you’ve done for, you know, and there’s probably a different topic for different show, but you run a very successful bar, but you also do it in a very ethical way. And you’re, you’re trying really hard to make sure that things happen in a positive way in downtown. And it’s not just about the business, it’s about doing it in a way that’s a good look for downtown. I think that has to do with your sustainability efforts. And I’m excited about where the grand goes. We’re excited. Yeah,

I can, I can, I can imagine. Uh, and I guess the last question I have to ask is given the track record, um, what’s next because this can’t be it. No, we can’t say. Oh, there is something. And it’s the big, it’s the biggest one yet. It has to be the last one. I’m getting tired. I don’t know if he’s teasing me or not. No. I thought you were joking. No. All right. Well, now keep my eyes and ears open then, okay? That’s a perfect teaser. Gentlemen, thanks so much for your time. We appreciate you. Thank you,


Appreciate it. Thanks, Tom. Nick Wayne, John Harden of High Wire Lounge, doing some amazing things in downtown, right there at the corner of 6th and Congress off Arizona Avenue, and it sounds like maybe they’re not done yet. He had hinted throughout the broadcast that there was more coming, but I didn’t realize it was a major project. So now I’m all intrigued as to what this news can be. So many things happening in downtown, hard to keep track. But I think that’s why you tune into this show, which is Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio, 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtownradio .org. You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona, 99 .1 FM Downtown Radio. I’m Brother Mark, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl airs every Tuesday at 3 p .m. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson and we give you a tasty taste of their music. If you want to check out what’s happening around Tucson, check out Radio Club Crawl. Tuesdays 3 p .m. right here on KTDT Tucson Arizona 99

.1 FM Downtown Radio. Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. Bye. Bye Once again a nice huge. Thank you to John Harden Nick Wayne of high wire for coming over to the Tucson Gallery Studios there and Recording a broadcast a podcast with us that hopefully will translate into a video. We took some video of it takes a little bit longer to get that edited and out there to the world, but there’s a you go to our lifealongstreetcar .org and you look through some of the recent stories you’ll find there’s the audio version which we’ve been doing since 2017 and then there’s a video version for most of them some some we still do by phone and there’s no video that because me sit on a phone being videotaped is not really all that exciting. As I mentioned the top of the show I’m actually at the Tucson Festival of Books today and wanted to point out a cool collaboration this is the first time that the team from the Tucson Folk Festival, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association, they’ve been supporting

the festival this year with music and they have their own stage and programming as well at the Tucson Festival of Books. And I really, I like that tie -in because I’m involved with both of those to some degree. The Folk Festival will be one of those stage moderators moderators to help move the shows along when they’re in between acts. I get to ask for money and tell you all the cool things that the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association is doing. But that’s coming up here April 5th through 7th. That’s the the Folk Festival and it is just getting bigger and bigger every year. Looking forward to that. If there’s other events that you want us to cover, talk about, share then hit us up on Facebook and Instagram is a great way to do that so you can tag us and we will do some research and get out there finding more and more stories to cover.

It’s just really amazing the depth of information in a three -mile stretch from a mountain to the University of Arizona of what we can what we can accomplish and cover there but you know if you’re listening of this show. And you have some thoughts. Let us know if you if you don’t like the social media, our email address contact at lifelong the streetcar .org. There’s a contact button on our face on our on our website. We look forward to to hearing from you. Well, we’re wrapping up here episode 287. In just a few minutes, we’ll have Ted proselski with words and work. And then at the top of the hour at noon, Ty Logan with heavy and back into the music at one with speaker box X. So there’s really no reason to turn off the radio. You can keep it on this dial all day long and then tomorrow we’re back with Paler Dave for the drive time in the morning, seven to nine, and a rock mix all week. You can check out the whole lineup on downtownradio .org and while you’re over there, it’s okay to hit

that donate button. You know, we volunteer run station, so money goes to programming, equipment, rent, the things that keep us rolling and keep us going.

James Portis is our production specialist, does a lot of work behind the scenes to get this up and running and into your hands as a podcast soon after it airs here on the radio. My name is Tom Heath. I am your host and technically the producer of this show. We thank Ryan Hood for letting us use their song Dillinger Days to open up. And we’re going to leave you with a group called the Dreadnaughts. It’s from 2011 and the album is called Uncle Touchy Goes to College. And I couldn’t find a song that says here’s the Grand Event Center, but I did find the Grand Union Hotel from 2011. Hope you have a great week, and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.