May 19, 2024

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Burgers, beer garden and pickleball coming to historic Tucson building | Subscriber

For more than a decade, downtown Tucson’s Corbett Building has sat vacant, falling victim to break-ins, vandalism and plagued by homelessness.

But a plan unveiled earlier this week to the Rio Nuevo board hopes to breathe new life into the space with a burger joint, a beer garden with outdoor games, five pickleball courts and, down the road in a second and third phase, a 10-story hotel and a 15-story apartment complex.

Developer Scott Stiteler shared his plans for the entire block at 340 N. Sixth Avenue and East Seventh Street, with the goal of completing the first phase this October or November.

The $8 million investment by Stiteler for Phase 1 will feature the 4,000-square-foot Love Burger wrapped with a patio on three sides, and the renovation of what he has dubbed Corbett Lane — the street to the south of the building — with better lighting, landscaping and planters in an effort to create a more inviting environment. The project will have 188 parking spots.

To help launch the first phase, Rio Nuevo agreed to a GPLET lease, a tax rebate of approximately $5 million and a $500,000 cash contribution.

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A planned Love Burger restaurant is part of developer Scott Stiteler’s $8 million investment.

The hotel, which could be ready by 2026, and the apartment building planned for future phases on the south side of the building are backed by an investment from Stiteler of over $180 million.

“There isn’t anyone with that kind of scale contributing to downtown right now,” said Rio Nuevo Chairman Fletcher McCusker.

The building was once home to the J. Knox Corbett Lumber and Hardware Co., which was founded in 1890, just north of the railroad tracks on Sixth Avenue, according to Arizona Daily Star archives. It operated there for more than 70 years before moving to a location on Speedway in 1963. Two years later, the company closed.

It has been undergoing renovations since last September, Stiteler told the board.

“I can’t wait for the community to come to this building, I can’t wait to bring it back to life,” he said.

Stiteler plans to incorporate the building’s old scoring pattern, custom-made wood windows and a paint color from about 80 years ago.

“This has been a loving rehabilitation of one of the signature buildings in downtown Tucson,” he said.

Top: The original building design by Roy Place for J. Knox Corbett Lumber and Hardware Company, at Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street in Tucson, circa 1931. (Courtesy of FORSarchitecture+interiors) Bottom: The vacant building in 2022 as street improvements swirl around it. (Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star)

As far as the future phases are concerned, Stiteler describes the design as “positive massing,” going from a single-story project on Seventh Street to the hotel, which could be eight to 10 stories high and then to the 15-story apartment building with structured parking for 400 vehicles.

Stiteler says that while the future phases are still conceptual, he’s already engaged with Marriott.

As a preview to the Corbett project, Stiteler and his partners opened Little Love Burger, helmed by executive chef Griffin Armstrong. Its handcrafted burgers feature love-themed names including the BarBQutie, with Swiss and cheddar cheeses, smoked bacon, pickled red onion and barbecue sauce; and the All Spiced Up with pepper jack, jalapeno, slaw, black pepper bacon, tomato, spicy ketchup.

The second and third phases of the Corbett block project includes a multi-story hotel and apartments that dwarf the original Corbett building (upper right).

Other menu items include chicken sandwiches, a children’s menu and hot dogs, including a Sonoran dog with charred jalapeño aioli and an I Heart NY dog with caramelized onions, spicy brown mustard and kraut.

The space, at 312 E. Congress St., also offers a rotating list of local craft beers and wines on tap, as well as milkshakes made with Hub ice cream.

The interior of the Corbett building in 2017 after a fire destroyed part of the interior.

Building renovations are underway and upgraded lighting and landscaping on the exterior will create a more inviting environment, the developer said.