Officials from Oro Valley and the Tucson Museum of Art met Aug. 1 to discuss the museum’s possible move from downtown Tucson to one of six sites identified within the town.
“It’s all conceptual at this time,” Oro Valley Town Manager David Andrews said.
Still, town officials have taken real steps to make the deal happen.
For the Aug. 1 meeting, Andrews had town employees put together a list of possible sites.
The properties town leaders suggest might suit the needs of the museum include: the residential Miller Ranch property at La Cañada Drive and Tangerine Road; the Steam Pump Village development off Oracle Road; land at Honeywell, also on Oracle; Hilton El Conquistador acreage fronting Oracle; the Rooney Ranch off Oracle; and the Naranja Town Site property of Naranja Drive.
Miller Ranch likely will come off the tentative list because the property owners plan to build a tech park, town Zoning Director Sarah More said.
All the owners were notified beforehand that the town intended to list their properties as options for the museum.
The possibility of a move to Oro Valley has stirred interest among residents and some of those whose lands were identified as possible museum sites.
“I can’t think of a better place than Oro Valley for the museum,” said Blake Hastings, of Cañada del Oro Partners, which owns Rooney Ranch.
A representative from Evergreen Development Company, which owns Steam Pump Village, said the museum would make a good addition to the retail center.
“It’s an interesting idea,” Evergreen executive Gregg Alpert said.
And Hilton El Conquistador General Manager Lynn Erickson said the company would be pleased to see the museum come to Oro Valley.
“It certainly is an exciting prospect,” Erickson said.
Even so, neither town nor museum officials have hammered details for a move.
None of the properties’ owners or their representatives had spoken directly with the museum about donating land.
The museum likely would ask for a donation of five acres, according to Museum Executive Director Robert Knight.
Knight, however, didn’t want to speculate about specific property donations, but acknowledged the museum would pursue the option.
“We don’t want to rule out any scenarios,” Knight said.
The Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave., has outgrown its downtown home and seen slip away its chance to move to the nearby historic county courthouse building.
Museum leaders had hoped to eventually move their collections to the iconic, mosaic-domed courthouse once a joint county-city court complex was built. But the court plans, which voters approved in a 1997 bond election, never got off the ground, and the estimated costs of construction now far exceed the available bond money.
“We’re not convinced there was ever the shared intention in making this happen,” Knight said.
Knight has said that the museum probably always will have some presence downtown, but he added that the lack of parking and display space has forced the museum’s board to seek out new quarters.
Museum leaders first spoke with officials in Marana.
That prospect appears to be stalled for now because the town presented few options that would meet the museum’s needs, Marana spokesman Rodney Campbell said.
While getting someone to donate land could prove challenging, building a new museum would seem an even greater feat.
To do so, the museum, area businesses, generous benefactors and Oro Valley, for example, would have to scrape together perhaps tens of millions.
“We need to have everyone on board,” Knight said.
Temperature, humidity and light control all would have to be accounted for in a new or retrofitted building, Knight said.
The art works and antiquities in the museum’s collections require extraordinary care. Any new home would have to be equipped with a specially designed temperature control system.
Town and museum officials have reached no decisions on the matter. That could take years of planning.
“The devil is in the details,” Evergreen’s Alpert said.
To that end, Tucson Museum of Art representatives plan to give a presentation at the Sept. 3 town council meeting.