Downtown Tucson reaches a milestone - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Downtown Tucson reaches a milestone

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Downtown Tucson has been the exception to the rule during the Great Recession.

Since 2008, 150 new businesses have opened and private projects have begun, most in the past 36 months.

Downtown Tucson is leading the economic recovery in Southern Arizona.

Of the new businesses, 34 are restaurants and 27 are retail outlets.

For those keeping score, only three restaurants have closed.

"That's extraordinary, absolutely," says Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

While downtown is on a roll, keeping the momentum will be a challenge.

2014 seems to be taken care of.

17 new private projects totaling $100 million are already planned for next calendar year.

"How long can the cycle last, how long can the cycle go?" Keith asks. "Do we have another five year run, do we have a seven year run."

It's hard to gauge with an uncertain economy but downtown Tucson has outpaced the rest of Southern Arizona.

It's also transformed downtown.

There are families and college students like Katherine Torth and Andrew Brigell.

They have seen a big turnaround from year to year.

"It's so cute and chic," Torth says. "They've definitely made it more for young people. They've done a good job."

"A much improved downtown," Brigell says.

Businesses say they've also seen an improvement.

"Business has been great," says Kathleen Lohnes, business manager for Urban Fresh. "It's been steadily trending up."

She says more and more people are eating healthy it seems and Urban Fresh is the only restaurant of its kind downtown.

But she adds, the more restaurants the more traffic.

"This whole area, there are more people walking by," she says.

But downtown Tucson has always been rather small and with more activity, it can seem cramped.

With more young people and more families moving in, there seems to be a lack of open space.

Parks and interactive open space for children are in demand right now.

"That's one thing we need to look hard at," Keith says. "We need it."

Along with new business, the construction projects have added 10,000 construction jobs and 2,000 non construction jobs.

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