Similar to many other cities in the Western U.S., Tucson was developed on a grid plan starting in the late 19th century, with the city center at Stone Avenue and Broadway Boulevard. While this intersection was initially near the geographic center of Tucson, that center has shifted as the city has expanded far to the east, development to the west being effectively blocked by the Tucson Mountains. An expansive city covering substantial area, Tucson has many distinct neighborhoods.
Tucson’s earliest neighborhoods, some of which are now covered by the Tucson Convention Center, or TCC, include:
- El Presidio, Tucson’s oldest neighborhood
- Barrio Histórico, also known as Barrio Libre
- Armory Park, directly south of downtown
- Barrio Anita, named for an early settler and located between Granada Avenue and Interstate 10
- Barrio Tiburón, now known as the Fourth Avenue arts district − designated in territorial times as a red-light district
- Barrio El Jardín, named for an early recreational site, Levin’s Gardens
- Barrio El Hoyo, named for a lake that was part of the gardens. Before the TCC was built, El Hoyo (Spanish for pit or hole) referred to this part of the city, which was inhabited mainly by Mexican-American citizens and Mexican immigrants.
- Barrio Santa Rosa, dating from the 1890s, now listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places
Other historical neighborhoods near downtown include:
- Feldman’s, named for an early resident photographer (with the streets “Helen” and “Mabel” named for his daughters)
- Menlo Park, situated west of downtown, adjacent to “A Mountain” more correctly called Sentinel Peak
- Iron Horse, east of Fourth Avenue and north of the railroad tracks, named for its proximity
- West University, located between the University of Arizona and downtown
- Dunbar Spring, west of West University
- Pie Allen, located west and south of the university near Tucson High School and named for John Brackett “Pie” Allen, a local entrepreneur and early mayor of Tucson
- Sam Hughes, located east of the University of Arizona, named after a Tucson pioneer
At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, downtown Tucson underwent a revitalization effort by city planners and the business community. The primary project was Rio Nuevo, a large retail and community center that has been stalled in planning for more than ten years. Downtown is generally regarded as the area bordered by 17th Street to the south, I-10 to the west, and 6th Street to the north, and Toole Avenue and the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) railroad tracks, site of the historic train depot and “Locomotive #1673”, built in 1900. Downtown is divided into the Presidio District, the Barrio Viejo, and the Congress Street Arts and Entertainment District. Some authorities include the 4th Avenue shopping district, which is set just northeast of the rest of downtown and connected by an underpass beneath the UPRR tracks.
Attractions downtown include the Hotel Congress designed in 1919, the Art Deco Fox Theatre designed in 1929, the Rialto Theatre opened in 1920, and St. Augustine Cathedral completed in 1896.Included on the National Register of Historic Places is the old Pima County Courthouse, designed by Roy Place in 1928. The El Charro Café, Tucson’s oldest restaurant, also operates its main location downtown.
Speedway Boulevard, one of Tucson’s primary east-west arterial streets, traditionally defined the northern boundary of campus but since the 1980s, several university buildings have been constructed north of this street, expanding into a neighborhood traditionally filled with apartment complexes and single-family homes. The university has purchased a handful of these apartment complexes for student housing in recent years. Sixth Street typically defines the southern boundary, with single-family homes (many of which are rented out to students) south of this street.