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

This week we discuss the restoration of the Historic Downtown Courthouse with Chuck Huckleberry, Pima County Administrator

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 Scooter.

Today is January 11th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”. We start today with a premonition.

A Modern Historic Cultural Center

History, culture, emotions and glamour all intersect at the Historic Pima County Courthouse. It may be the one place where John Dillinger and Johnny Depp, who later played Dillinger, both faced a judge in the same courtroom. It will become a destination for rock hounds and just launched the January 8th Memorial, celebrating the idea of Democracy and civil discourse.

Pima County moved operations out of the building in 2015 and this year we will see the fully reimagined cultural and tourism center come back to life. Chuck Huckleberry, a native Tucson and the Pima County’s top administrator joined us by phone to walk us through this repurposed space.

Transcript

Tom Heath
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo. 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. This week, we speak with Chuck Huckleberry, Pima County’s top administrator, about the multimillion-dollar renovations to the Historic County Courthouse and what we expect to see in 2021.

Tom Heath
Today is January 10th. 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 inTucson’s Urban core. We’ve shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about.

Tom Heath
From A mountain to UArizona 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 with our very own Downtown Radio app. You can reach us by email on the show – Contact@LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org! You’re going to find us on Facebook. Sometimes you’ll see us on Twitter and we have all of our past episodes on our website LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org and we’ve just added some new ways to find us through Spotify, iTunes or simply ask your smart speaker to play our podcast. We think that’s going to work.

Tom Heath
Well, we’re going to start today show with a comeback. It was a little over a year ago, January 5th, 2020. We launched the year with the story about surviving a zombie apocalypse with the team at Miller Surplus. They have everything you could possibly have at your disposal to deal with those zombies. Little did we know that we were foreshadowing the most extraordinary of years and while we didn’t quite get to zombie apocalypse, we weren’t too far off. Well as the year progressed, we aired an episode with Francisco Romero, Spanish voice of UArizona’s Wildcats football and basketball teams. We asked him about the potential of the Wildcat football program. And what was going to happen during the panic-stricken 2020.

Tom Heath
His answer to our question: It’s too soon to tell. What became clear to us that every show we could do would probably end with the same question, and the same answer. How’s it going? Too soon to tell. So we decided to take a break.

Tom Heath
That was May 10th 2020. I’ll tell you what, we’re happy to be back and truthfully the time off was an opportunity for us to reflect on the amazing stories that we’ve been able to share since our original launch in 2017. We took time to create a solid plan for this year, including how we’re going to do all of our remote interviews. We’re looking to add video to our site and you might have heard in the opening their we’re launching the podcast and a lot of places that you can now find our past episodes, thats Spotify, iTunes, Google, and Amazon. Hope you can check us out and always head over to our website.

Tom Heath
Well, our New Year’s resolution is to bring Life Along The Streetcar back. Not just the show, but the actual life. It’s been an interesting twelve months to say the least and we want to remind all of you about how special our Urban Core is. Well stay tuned each and every Sunday, we’re going to be back with great speakers, great topics and great information and at the bottom of the hour stay tuned as well for our Encore presentations of past episodes.

Tom Heath
Well, our feature today is Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry as he talks about The Rebirth of Pima County’s Historic Courthouse. History, culture, emotions, glamour all intersect at the Historic Pima County courthouse and maybe the one place where John Dillinger and Johnny Depp who later played Dillinger both faced a judge in the same courtroom. Courtroom number one. It will soon become a destination for RockHounds and just launched the January 8th Memorial, celebrating the idea of democracy and civil discourse. Pima County moved operations out of the building in 2015. And this year we are going to see the fully reimagined Cultural and Tourism Center come back to life. Chuck Huckleberry, a native Tucsonan and Pima County’s top administrator, joined us by phone to walk through this repurposed space.

Chuck Huckleberry
My name is Chuck Huckleberry. I am the County Administrator and according to the county code. I am the CEO of the county and I’m responsible for all of the Departments and agencies of the county that are not run by a separate elected official. So that’s in a nutshell.

Tom Heath
That’s a pretty big group of folks to be managing on a daily basis. The point of the call today really was to chat about the Pima County the historic courthouse and the renovation but obviously 2020 has been an interesting year for everyone and the county has been involved with a lot of projects throughout the entire region, but also specifically for our purposes in downtown. There’s been a really strong partnership. I would say even stronger than in the past between Pima County and the Downtown Tucson Partnership and just just curious how that came about or what some of the things that You’ve been working on to help in the area.

Chuck Huckleberry
Well, it is the downtown the county I believe is a largest employer downtown so many of our employees operate in the downtown simply during the day because they work in one of the downtown facilities or downtown building. So we have a keen interest in making sure that the downtown is liveable and attractive and basically continues to provide services to the employees of the County as well as a general community.

Tom Heath
Well, I know from my role on the on the partnership’s board. The county was instrumental with helping the small businesses through some grant funding and some setting up some testing sites and just just helping in general keeping the best that we can the doors open for those that are that are making downtown their entrepreneurial launch.

Chuck Huckleberry
I think that the COVID-19 pandemic threw everybody for a loop. The county is the public health agency. And so we provide Public Health Services countywide. It’s an incorporated places as well as the unincorporated area of the county the downtown we decided early on to work closely with the partnership in order to develop a model for our assistance to small businesses and restaurants that populate the downtown because we felt it was Important that they survive during the pandemic. The partnership has helped immensely. They even to lately coordinated what we call testing sites, the testing sites for the covid-19 infection in the downtown area.

Chuck Huckleberry
And so we enjoyed a great partnership with the downtown Tucson partnership and really using them as the model. How we expand our assistance to businesses or small businesses. Particularly that program now has been expanded to 4th Avenue, a couple of businesses on Mount Lemmon and some of the other businesses in the unincorporated area of the county

Tom Heath
If you’re out and about anywhere in the area, you’re seeing Billboards and signs on doors about ready for you. And that’s the protocols that the county put in place to the best that we can ensure safety for for those returning to business.

Chuck Huckleberry
That’s correct. Downtown partnership was essential in helping getting all of the small businesses and the restaurants registered in our program and understanding clearly what the obligations were to maintain that seal of approval which really says that the business is doing everything possible to prevent the spread of covid-19. And that essentially is, you know, not a hundred percent sure on any of these cases, but it’s safe. Safe as it can be in order to visit that business.

Tom Heath
I think safe as it can be. That’s our motto these days just we don’t have complete control, but we just do everything we can to make it the the best environment we can, correct? Well, the the exciting part about coming out of this pandemic and I don’t want to minimize the pain that people are still going through but Tucson has been identified as one of those potential places that could really have a strong growth coming out of the pandemic, we seem to be situated well with our Economic Development, with our construction and I think a lot of folks from what I’m being told and what I’ve been reading or looking at the region as a place they may want to come to expand their business, and that seems to be a positive light for the next few years coming out of pretty dark year.

Chuck Huckleberry
I think we’re poised to see significant expansion and economic recoveries. Once the pandemic gets under control and hopefully that’ll be about the summer of twenty one. So I think 21 is going to be probably a Very Good Year. It’s hard to predict but you never know what the next Crisis will be, but we don’t see one in the future and we see covid-19 actually beginning to wind down. As we continue to and get vaccinations out into the community. So I think it’s you know, we have I think a pretty bright future simply because we are a medium-sized Community, we’ve got a lot of positive things going in Economic Development the economic revitalization of downtown continues even during the pandemic. So those are all positive signs.

Tom Heath
I’m looking forward to getting out and about and I know everyone wants to get back. Back to their shows at Rialto and dinners at Hotel Congress and such and as soon as it’s safe, I think we’ll see how that flood of people coming back down. And I think one of the reasons they’re going to be coming back down is we are really at the launch point of the renovation. I think it’s been going on about five or six years since the county moved operations out of the historic courthouse, and it’s quite a different facility on the inside. The outside still looks great, but the inside is quite a bit different than it was in 2015.

Chuck Huckleberry
We completely renovated the historic courthouse. Its renovation will essentially be complete in probably mid-January of 2021. We as you know, moved assessor, treasurer, recorder, our justice courts out of that and into a new building on 240 N Stone, which is a public service center of the county. And just went about methodically renovating the Old Courthouse from taking out all of the accumulated wiring and things that had been put in that building over 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 years, to going in and reinforcing the old structure bringing a lot of it up to current codes and doing renovation in remodel. It will be what I would believe will be the cultural and historic center of the community, as it opens.

Chuck Huckleberry
It’s also the location of the January Memorial which is nearing completion, now housed within the historic Courthouse will be the UArizona Mineral Museum, which will be I think an international attraction. Our Visitor Center, we have a Southern Arizona regional centers on a regional Visitor Center located on the first floor. Visit Tucson, which is the component that basically promotes tourism of the region is located. Their offices and the building we have our attractions and tourism Department located in the building and I believe that it will be one of the major attractions in the entire region, which means all of Southern Arizona, Arizona and the Southwest, simply because the assets that sit in that building are significant and it will become a major attraction along With January’s Memorial, which I believe will be a renewed efforts in Congress to get a designated as a National Memorial. One of just a few in the country. So it has a very bright future as soon as we’re able to get people back out safely in the community and I think some of the facilities will probably open to the public as early as April of this 21, but we just You know that that date is a little tentative. We just have to see where we stand with covid-19 infections and the degree of which the community is vaccinated.

Tom Heath
We are speaking with Chuck Huckleberry, Pima County’s top administrator and the revitalization of Pima County’s courthouse. We’re going to be back to finish up this interview in just one moment, but I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and streaming on Downtown Radio.org.

Tom Heath
And we’re going to be back now with our second part of the interview with Chuck Huckleberry about Pima County’s courthouse and talk about some of the archaeological finds that Were uncovered, a little history of that courtroom number one, and of course details on the January 8th Memorial.

Tom Heath
Well, the building itself is I think one of those iconic places in the Southwest. it shows up in a lot of different footage and postcards and murals and such. So I think people are fully familiar with it and knowing now what’s what’s happening on the inside. I mean the Partnerships that you must have had to engage in. I mean the the Gem and Mineral Museum, this is a huge coup a this is not this this is a major event for for the downtown area to get that from cooperation with the university.

Chuck Huckleberry
And I think there they’ll when you begin to and see the mineral Museum it as a world-class exhibit it is, you know at the University where they’re in the plant the I think the planetarium, they had very limited space and couldn’t display much. Here, they have much bigger space. They can tell the story of Minerals and Gems throughout the world. And I think people begin to see if they will understand that it is a world-class attraction.

Tom Heath
And that’s your that’s your background, right? Mining and Engineering?

Chuck Huckleberry
My first degree was in mining engineering and my second degree was in the Masters was in civil. So yeah, basically an engineer by training and had been doing The administration and management for quite a long time.

Tom Heath
Well, so you had some connections with the the college there at the University for for mining maybe grease some Wheels there to get that happening. But you know obviously Tucson with a Gem and Mineral show is already the epicenter for a lot of folks interested in that area and to house it all in one space which I do I’m excited. I know a lot of people that are excited by that and to get there he when you walk in you’ve got right there on the first floor that the Heritage and Visitor Center, which is I have not seen it but I understand it’s like an interactive display of…

Chuck Huckleberry
It’s an interactive display of every attraction and it tells the history and culture of Pima County and it’s in a form that is visual, has artifacts on display. It will have the original 1893 map of Pima County when it contains both Cochise and Santa Cruz counties done by Georgia Rosicrucian, the original surveyor of the general area. It will have the appointment of Wyatt Earp and Johnny Behan as deputy Pima County Sheriff’s, we have those original documents. And as you will know later on Cochise was separated from Pima County in the 1880s and then obviously both Wyatt Earp and Johnny Behan were involved in the Tombstone Okay Corral shootings.

Tom Heath
I think as you walk around that area, you can see the footprint of the original Presidio from the late 18th century. That really was the foundation of Tucson and you’re just a block away mean, you’re literally a good athlete could throw a football to hit the Presidio Museum from from the courthouse. So it really is a cultural center as you said of the region.

Chuck Huckleberry
And I think we when we built the January’s Memorial. The first thing we really had to do is go in underneath the memorial and do archaeological investigations in recovery and during that process. We found the original first jail in Pima County. We found the first city hall us City of Tucson and below that we found artifacts related to the Presidio when you just walk Another 30 or 40 feet to the East and kind of in the courtyard area the existing 1929 Courthouse are the foundations and location of the 1880 courthouse. So you have this whole thing and now you have the original courthouse in 1929. He had its 1950s Edition and it’s I think restored to its original condition. The only thing that hasn’t been removed. Out on the building is the boilers that were used to actually heat the building with diesel fuel in say 1929 and 1930.

Chuck Huckleberry
The other interesting will say historic component of this is that courtroom one has been restored to its original 1929 condition. And that was the courtroom where Dillinger and his gang were arraigned after they arrested in Tucson and then ultimately Extradited back to believe Indiana. I think they were extradited to an escape-proof prison in Indiana, which they promptly escaped from so they should have stayed here in Pima County. Yeah we have in that Dillinger courtroom will have kind of about an eight or ten minute clip that re you know, you know read creates the court hearings and the proceedings and the actions and what occurred at that time.

Tom Heath
Well, I was doing a little research and found out that a few years later and I think it was in the 90s Johnny Depp who later played John Dillinger was actually in that same courthouse for a speeding ticket. So we made the current we have may have been the inspiration for for Johnny Depp has to move into that into that role.

Chuck Huckleberry
And we have a second floor. We have a you know, unique cases and the courts and Pima County and Johnny Depp was obviously a future movie star, but we Clark Gable in the 50s in that courtroom in a civil proceedings related to a traffic accident.

Tom Heath
Interesting. Yeah, that’s Tucson was the hot spot for the celebrities for sure. A question on the on the January 8th Memorial and we’re coming up when this airs will be just after the the 10th anniversary of the events and I know most people are familiar with that. But the memorial my understanding is it’s not it’s really focused on the concept of of democracy and participation in civil discourse and and honoring what Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was doing with her Congress on the street and engaging the public. Is that a fair?

Chuck Huckleberry
Yes, that’s fair. It’s it’s a it’s named the Embrace and it’s really modeled after how the community came together after the shooting and so it’s really it’s really this model and concept of You can disagree but you need to do That in a civil Manner and do it in away in which everyone is respected in their opinions.

Tom Heath
And the the bulk of the memorial is outdoors?

Chuck Huckleberry
Yes. It is. Most of its Outdoors will have an interpretive signage but it’s quite if you begin to look at it and see if it’s quite stunning came out what we call it. It’s almost in perfect Unison with the concept of the courthouse it Doesn’t overpower it and actually supplement sit in it. And it’s threshold. It’s where you enter, you know go through the main Corridor the center of the courthouse through the archways and so it’s it’s really integrated into the 29 courthouse.

Tom Heath
Is it as it open air and freestanding or do you have to go as an enclosed in a way it can pick a people walk through it?

Chuck Huckleberry
It’s open air and standing people walk through it. They can go through the interpretation of the very sign. In symbols, it has four Gardens in each quadrant dedicated to some of the victims and so you can go off the concrete pass and walk on decomposed Granite pass as if you’re walking through the natural desert or the areas that are dedicated to these individuals who liked unique things like who have a Christina Taylor Green, which is a butterfly garden. We have Durrell Stoddard Garden which has dominated by Saguaro Cactus and like saguaros and so each of the gardens has her own theme. We have a garden dedicated Judge John Roll who was a federal district judge here the time of the shooting and was killed in the event.

Tom Heath
So much so much history so much emotion tied up into one one one specific area of Tucson. I think you’re right that it will become that destination spot as people are finding their way around the Southwest. Mr. Huckleberry, I have got all of my questions answered. However, I may not have covered everything that I should have. So is there anything that that we should have discussed or anything that you would like to bring up anything. This will be airing mid-January. So anything coming up in the near future that people should be made aware of not really I think you pretty much covered it all.

Chuck Huckleberry
I think the most important point is that as we opened the court by house back up. It’s really a public facility has very few offices in it. And so people should feel free to come down and visit and look at history and culture of Pima County dating back to the Presidio well, we’ll find some links to the courthouse itself and make sure we post those on our social media and we’ll also keep people apprised of the the dates. So as things open up we will make sure to head folks in that direction and just explore explore this amazing part of history, and I’m I’m kind of excited by the archaeology and you know the original courthouse and some of those are original jail cell and some of those things that you found. That’s the That gets me gets me somewhat excited,

Tom Heath
You know, they had the railroad spikes in the floor so that the prisoners couldn’t dig out from underneath the jail. So let’s kind of unusual

Tom Heath
We do it we have to do with the tools we have at our disposal. Well, Mr. Huckleberry County Administrator. I appreciate your time. You’re a native Tusconan. You’ve seen quite a transformation of your city. I hope your, I imagine you’re proud of your role in that expansion and and growth and and I thank you for for the ear part. And I thank you for your time today.

Chuck Huckleberry
Thank you Tom. I appreciate it.

Tom Heath
Alright, so have a fantastic day.

Tom Heath
Chuck Huckleberry, Pima County Administrator talking to us about the Historic Pima County Courthouse and I cannot wait to get in there and check out all of those amazing finds Well, you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar in Downtown Radio, 99.1 FM and streaming on Downtown Radio. Can’t believe this half hour is already gone. Well, it is good to be back home here on Downtown Radio where we belong right after DJ Bank The Art of Easing, we’ve got an encore presentation of Life Along the Streetcar. And then the top of the hour is Ty Logan’s Heavy Mental and we’re going to leave you today with what else but a little German Happy Hardcore Rave and Techno music band called Scooter, and I think you’ll understand why.

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Tom Heath - Senior Loan Officer with Nova Home Loans