Wildcats returning to the University of Arizona campus this week might notice a few changes on nearby East University Boulevard.
The popular retail and dining strip between North Euclid Avenue and North Park Avenue, known as Main Gate Square, went through some changes over the summer, including the addition of new businesses and a new stretch of track for the Tucson Modern Streetcar project.
Construction is progressing
Construction crews were hard at work over the summer laying track for Tucson’s Sun Link streetcar, which will connect downtown, North Fourth Avenue, Main Gate Square, the UA main campus and the Arizona Health Sciences Center via 3.9 miles of track.
East University Boulevard, between North Park Avenue and North Euclid Avenue, was closed to traffic for much of the summer as workers installed streetcar track in place of old trolley track that for years connected East University Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue. Officials say the street is expected to reopen tonight. Streetcar service is expected to begin in late 2013.
The streetcar will be integrated with the city’s Sun Tran bus system and UA’s free CatTran shuttle service to allow riders to easily move between the three transportation systems, said Bill Davidson, marketing manager for UA Parking & Transportation Services.
Davidson urged UA students, employees and visitors to be patient with construction, saying, “Once this is completed, it will be a nice addition to campus and a natural connection to Fourth Avenue and downtown.”
Ongoing streetcar construction continues to affect various roadways on or near the UA campus as the project progresses. Up-to-date information on road closures and access restrictions in the University area is available on the UA Parking & Transportation website.
Parking & Transportation Services also emails weekly construction updates to UA students and employees.
More information on the overall streetcar project, including city-wide streetcar construction updates, is available on the Tucson Modern Streetcar website.
University Boulevard welcomes new businesses
Main Gate Square welcomed some new businesses over the summer, including an art store, tea house, macaroni-and-cheese restaurant and a new UA-themed shop. A new clothing store, called Bonita Cute, also is slated to open soon at 800 E. University Blvd., said Jane McCollum, manager of the Marshall Foundation, which owns and manages most of the real estate in Main Gate Square. Businesses that closed their doors over the summer include La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill and The Cereal Boxx, a breakfast-themed café.
New businesses to check out include:
The Fix, a macaroni-and-cheese-themed restaurant that plans to eventually boast upwards of 20 different varieties of the comfort-food dish, opened Aug. 14 at 943 E. University Blvd. Among the 10 varieties on the current menu are taco, lobster and the veggie-loaded garden mac.
“We wanted to hit every popular flavor,” said restaurant owner Amanda Rickel, a Tucson native who grew up helping out in local Baggin's Gourmet Sandwiches shops, once owned by her father. “We thought: Who doesn’t like mac-and-cheese?”
Of course, there are bound to be a few macaroni naysayers out there. For them, The Fix offers salads and sandwiches, too.
Although not technically new to Main Gate, Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge, formerly The Scented Leaf Fine Teas and Fragrances, relocated from 800 E. University Blvd., next to The Auld Dubliner, to 943 E. University Boulevard, next to Wilko, over the summer.
Once a tea house/perfume shop, the Scented Leaf has cut out fragrance sales to focus primarily on tea, said owner Shane Barela. It currently offers around 45 different varieties of imported loose leaf tea, available iced, hot or by the bag. Coffee, pies, soups and sandwiches also are available.
Barela was inspired to get into the tea business during a trip with his wife to Spain, where he discovered flavorful loose leaf tea and began learning about its health benefits.
Now he says: “I want people to experience tea the way the world experiences tea.” To help with that, he offers anyone who comes in a free sample of iced tea.
Posner’s Art Store, a longtime staple at 1025 N. Park Ave., near the intersection of North Park Avenue and East Speedway Boulevard, has relocated to a two-story space at 944 E. University Blvd. An art student’s paradise, the store carries a variety of supplies, including clay, paint, brushes, drafting tools and much more.
The store vacated its old space, which it had occupied for 40 years, to make way for the construction of new student housing, said store owner Emily Brown.
Brown said she was happy to be able to stay in the campus area. She said that while students have traditionally accounted for about 96 percent of the store’s business, she anticipates more walk-by business at the new location.
The A-Store at Main Gate is now open at 845 N. Park Ave., just a block north of East University Boulevard, at the southwest corner of North Park Avenue and East Second Street.
The store, operated by UA BookStores in partnership with the Eller College of Management and UA Student Affairs, is staffed primarily by Eller business students, giving them the chance to apply the skills they learn in the classroom in a retail setting. It carries a variety of merchandise, including textbooks, UA apparel, school supplies and more.
The A-Store has four other locations – at the Tucson Mall, Park Place Mall, the UA's McKale Memorial Center and downtown.