Reviving the 'Miracle Mile' May Be Tucson's Next Big Thing

After tremendous success with a streetcar line, the desert city is considering strategies for investing in its historic automobile corridor.
April 9, 2018, 2pm PDT | Katharine Jose
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The Tucson Inn, pictured in 1956.
ArizonaArt

Four years ago, the Sunlink streetcar began running a route originating at the University of Tucson, along 4th Avenue, through downtown, and to the Mercado District. With its success came the kind of business and residential activity seen in other cities that have invested in transit, to the point where, four years later, formerly desolate areas are concerned.

Other areas of Tucson have not fared as well, namely what was once referred to as the Miracle Mile, a stretch of road on the north side of the city that once served as an "automobile gateway.

"With its Old Spanish Trail marketing, Tucson was one of the first cities to promote automobile-based tourism," Gideon Berger writes at CitiesSpeak. "As vehicle ownership skyrocketed in the 1920s, business catering to 'auto-camping' tourists flourished along corridors leading to the city. Eventually, these grew to include 'motor courts' with cabin lodging and some of the nation’s first motels."

Like similar areas in other American cities, the construction of an interstate highway—in this case I-10—Miracle Mile sent the neighborhood into decline.

After its recent success in redevelopment, Tucson won a land use fellowship from the Rose Center for Public Leadership and has revisited the Miracle Mile.

Berger, who is the director of the program for the Rose Center, enumerates a lengthy list of areas for which the fellowship developed recommendations, including both economic and cultural development and protecting residents from the kind of displacement that this sort of development can mean for those who live in it.

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Published on Friday, March 23, 2018 in CitiesSpeak
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