As we say good-bye to 2014, let's take a look back at what we've learned and how far we've come as a city.
2014 has been a year of culinary advancement in Tucson. New restaurants seem to be popping up every week - fun concepts, elegant atmospheres, patio dining, so many food options to choose from. The downtown area has particularly continued to boom with the additions of Pizzeria Bianco, Diablo Burger, Agustin Kitchen, Seis Kitchen, 5 Points Market & Restaurant, and more.
2014 has also been the year of the Tucson Streetcar. Officially running since July 2014, the ridership has been above predictions and we sincerely hope that people will continue to use public transit, when possible. The blue streetcar is sleek, beautiful, sparkling new, and made completely in the USA. Regardless of how you felt about the funding process, the streetcar is here now and the best thing to do is to encourage its use by students, travelers, snowbirds, families, and businesspeople.
Also in 2014 - we biked, hiked, ran, and soaked up the perpetual sunshine.
In 2015, we look forward to watching our city continue to rise as a livable, lovable place - a city of mountains, wondrous weather, and friendly people.
Our hopes for the new year include:
- Economic Growth - We are hopeful that Tucson will continue to be a city on the rise. The restaurant industry is growing quickly and our wish is that more companies and other sectors will choose to locate here. May Tucson be known as a business-friendly and highly desirable city - for work, for play, and for raising a family.
- Continued Street Improvements - We know, we know. Tucson has a lot of potholes (grimace). Let's celebrate the work that has been done (Have you driven on Houghton in SE Tucson? Smooth as glass!) and work together to make our streets smoother, prettier, and safer...for drivers and for pedestrians.
- Spruced Up Parks (and the addition of new parks) - Numerous studies have shown that parks enhance the quality of life for city residents. They lower crime rates, account for happier people, and provide places for people to connect. We'd love to see the city, the county, and the private sector collaborate to create and renovate parks across the city. When designs are being imagined, let's look to the 5 Best Playgrounds and 5 Best Splash Pads in the city as a starting place for ideas and inspiration.
- A GIANT Bookstore in Downtown Tucson - Think Powell's in Portland. Tucson is already a super literary city with the fourth largest book festival in the USA, a lovely poetry center, and a delightful chain of used bookstores. We'd love to see an extra-large bookstore (preferably a Bookmans) in the heart of downtown - a place to relax, read, write, work, connect, and buy stuff. Good for locals, good for tourists too.
- A "Central Park" for Tucson – One missing link in our city is a clean, welcoming, and beautiful public park. Almost all of the best cities in the USA have one. New York has Central Park, Austin has Zilker, Atlanta has Centennial, St. Louis has Citygarden, etc. Tucson should follow suit and make it a priority to create a public space where people can relax, musicians can play, children can run, and food vendors can sell their wares. We’re envisioning a carousel, a fountain, and a walking path lined with literature-themed sculptures…either right downtown or perhaps by prioritizing the expansion of Reid Park?
- New & Renovated Libraries – Libraries are places of equality and freedom, where people young + old can travel around the world and learn new skills…regardless of income or social status. We'd love to see more of them and updates to existing locations as well. How can we better support libraries? Start by getting a library card for everyone in your family. Visit your neighborhood library at least once a week.
- More Beautiful “Entry Points” into Tucson – Tucson Metro Chamber and AAA Landscape were on the right track with the First Impressions project, which sought to “transform the six-tenths of a mile on Tucson Blvd. between Tucson International Airport and Valencia Blvd. into a positive landscape, art and cultural experience for visitors leaving TIA." We’d like to see similar plans for the east and west entry points from I-10. Large and aesthetic “Welcome to Tucson” signs and pretty landscaping would be a good start. Add in a clean and spacious Visitor’s Center with a gift shop and playground and Tucson will quickly become a favorite road trip destination.
- More Kid-Friendly and Family-Centric Attractions and Restaurants - The restaurant scene is pretty outstanding, right? Even so, we'd love to see more cafes and dining establishments with healthy children's menu options and outdoor playgrounds. Also - How about a children's theatre with breakfast/lunch served during the show? And we STILL think Disney should open a theme park and/or water park here in Tucson, Arizona. After all, we have near perfect weather year-round (with no tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, or humidity).
Here is our final benediction. May we "accentuate the positives" of our city as we ring in the New Year! May we pursue personal goals to be healthier, kinder, more generous, and more courageous people. May we work together to make Tucson the city we dream about and hope for.
Good-bye, 2014. Hello, 2015. Tucson -- you ain't seen nothin' yet.
What are your wishes for Tucson as we enter 2015?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or send a tweet to @TucsonTopia.