AIA & LSA Taste Downtown Tucson Tours


Saturday, October 4th


The American Institute of Architects’ Southern Arizona Chapter and Living Streets Alliance are pleased to present Taste Downtown Tucson: guided tours led by local visionaries, architects and historians utilizing the bicycle, Tucson’s Modern Streetcar and your own two feet for transportation.

Part of AIA’s annual celebration, Architecture Week, LSA and AIA have collaborated for the last four years to bring you “Architecture on Wheels: Hike & Bike Tours” of historic downtown neighborhoods. This year, we are excited to expand our modality options and have incorporated the Tucson Modern Streetcar into the event.

Focusing on the impact of Transit Oriented Development and historic revitalization, AIA has chosen the theme: Old is the New, New.

Free parking is available at the Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenida del Convento, just west of I-10 on Congress St. Tickets, maps, Streetcar passes, and discount coupons to local restaurants must be picked up in person the day of the event at the Mercado San Agustín, between 9 am and 4 pm. To make other arrangements call 520-261-8777, or email


Home Tours: Mercado District at Menlo Park, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

$35 included in Base Fee, Register here.

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Image: Daniel Harrison, AIA Associate

Located just west of downtown, the Mercado District sits on one of the oldest inhabited regions of North America. Old World style built with New World materials attracts homeowners who seek the advantages of both eras. The mood of Latin America resounds in the neighborhood, whose layout is based on traditional irrigation canals that once were present. Our Mercado homes draw inspiration from Latin American colonial towns and feature wrought iron balconies, interior courtyards, wall fountains, and integral color plaster.

The Mercado District is an urban environment similar to those found in the great city centers throughout Europe and Latin America. The District is home to bustling retail businesses, open-air markets, cafes and a stop on Tucson’s Modern Streetcar linking the Mercado to Tucson’s vibrant cultural activities and business hubs.

The homes you will tour inside the Mercado District are very special and represent the homeowners’ unique style and design preferences. That said, the Mercado District attracts visionaries who share one common goal: creating community. Shared public space, including sidewalks, the community garden, the fountain courtyard and even the streets are designed for people and livability first. The result is a highly walkable and vibrant neighborhood where residents spend more time outdoors, than in.

We request your cooperation in respecting each Tour homeowner, their neighbors, and neighborhood.  Because these are private homes, special accommodations may not be possible in every situation.  Please remember, no photos may be taken in the homes – no exceptions.


Walking Tour of Barrio Libre: John Messina, 10:00 am

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Image: Daniel Harrison, AIA Associate

$15, limited to 25 people

This will be a morning, one and one-half to two-hour long, walking tour through Barrio Libre (also called Viejo or Historico), one of the two oldest neighborhoods in Tucson, where we will observe and discuss the streetscape on Meyer and Convent Avenues, as well as individual buildings with respect to origin, style and typology. We will not be entering any houses, but there will be verbal descriptions and anecdotes concerning selected properties. The tour will begin in front of the Cushing St. Bar, Cushing and Meyer Streets, at 10:00 am. on Saturday, October 4th.

John Messina, AIA, is a Tucson architect who for ten years held the joint positions of research architect at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, and faculty member in the School of Architecture where he developed a General Education course on the Sonoran Desert Region. His book, Álamos, Sonora: Architecture and Urbanism in the Dry Tropics, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2008. A book in progress, Resurrecting the Dead, concerns a year spent restoring a historic townhouse in the New Orleans French Quarter.

Join John on this 90 minute walking tour covering Convent and Meyer Avenues from Cushing Street to 17th Street. The tour will leave the Mercado at approximately 9:45 am via Modern Streetcar or you may bike or walk to the Cushing Street Bar where the tour will leave at 10:00 am.


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Image: Daniel Harrison, AIA Associate

(New) Old Main Tour, University of Arizona Campus: Corky Poster, Poster, Frost, Mirto  1:00 pm

$15 limited to 25 people

There are few projects in Tucson in which Corky Poster has not been involved. From the Historic Train Depot, home of Amtrak and Maynard’s Market, to the historic Roy Place Building in the heart of downtown, Corky’s firm, Poster, Frost, Mirto, has worked to preserve, restore, and plan for a sustainable Tucson that is prepared for the future and honors the past. Join Corky for a tour inside the recently renovated Old Main building located in the heart of the University of Arizona campus for a 90 minute walking tour. This tour will meet at the fountain on the west entrance of Old Main at 1:00 pm.

Old Main, completed in 1891 by Architect James Creighton, was the first building on the University of Arizona campus. It was saved from the wrecking ball in 1938 and now in 2013-2014 has been fully rehabilitated to its former glory. The exterior has been painstakingly rehabilitated to bring the building back to its original construction. The 122-year-old metal roof and the entire veranda have been replaced precisely as they were constructed. All the exterior masonry has been re-pointed in place. The original windows, protected by the veranda for over a century, merely needed repainting. The interior has been rehabilitated with the goal of putting a 21st century university into a 19th century shell. The central cruciform has been restored to its original design and detailing and will serve as a public University gallery. The Silver and Sage room will serve public functions and is also restored to its original Creighton design. The remainder of the second floor will have a modern interior fitted into the historic shell – like a ship in a bottle. The project was a design-build effort with Poster Frost Mirto as the lead architect on the Sundt Construction design-build team.


University of Arizona Campus Walking Tour: R. Brooks Jeffery, Drachman Institute 1:00 pm

$15 limited to 25 people

Join local architect and CAPLA faculty member Brooks Jeffrey on this walking tour of the U of A Campus.  Site see iconic buildings that have shaped and evolved the built environment throughout time since the founding of the campus.  The tour begins at the Old Main Building at 1:00 pm. and journeys nearly 2 hours.  Verbal narration will be given along the tour, picture taking is welcomed, and dress comfortably for this will be an afternoon tour.


Tour of Downtown: Michael Keith, CEO Downtown Tucson Partnership, Rob Paulus, Rob Paulus Architects 4:00 pm

$15 limited to 30 people

Tour starts at the streetcar stop at 1 East Broadway, south side of Broadway at Stone Ave. Tour ends at Maynard’s Market inside the historic train depot.


Hors d’oeuvre + Cocktail Reception: Maynard’s Kitchen Patio with AIA and LSA, 6:00 pm

$20 limited to 30 people



Frequently Asked Questions


What is included in the Base Fee?

The Base Package includes: AIA’s Home Tour and self-guided walking / biking / streetcar map featuring detailed descriptions of historic and modern structures, access to view 9 homes in the Mercado District of Menlo Park for the AIA & LSA Home Tour, Sun Link Modern Streetcar Day Pass, deals and discounts at participating downtown restaurants and cafes, a Continental breakfast reception during packet pick up at the Mercado San Agustín from 9 :00 AM to 10:00 AM.


Where do I pick up my tickets?

All tickets, maps, Streetcar passes, and discount vouchers must be picked up when you check in with our volunteers at the Mercado San Agustín. If you check in between 9:00 am and 10:00 am we’ll have free coffee from Stella Java, pastries from local bakeries and fresh fruit laid out for you to fuel up before your exciting day of new sights and sounds.


Where do I park? Is it free?

The Mercado is a great place to park your vehicle for the day, and it’s free.


How do I find the tour guides and the start of the tour?

You don’t have to worry about navigating your way to the start of your tours by yourself, LSA and AIA volunteers will leave from the Mercado 20-25 minutes before the start of each tour and accompany you to meet your tour guides. All you have to do is make sure you get on board.


Why are there no bike tours this year?

You are welcome to use your bicycle to get to the start of the tours you register for, but unfortunately scheduling just didn’t work out this year to be able to provide a bicycle tour as one of the options. We promise they’ll be back next year!




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