People: Jennifer Erdrich, M.D., MPH

Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Photo by Thomas Veneklasen

Q: Where were you born?

San Diego

Q: How did you become interested in your career field?

I knew that I wanted to be a doctor, but had no clue I would become a surgeon. I was so convinced I would never choose surgery that I made it my last required rotation in medical school. I thought I was decided on internal medicine, and then my surgical rotation swept me away. The hours were longer but the clock turned faster because every minute was so enthralling.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of your job?

The time commitment. The training leading up to now and the job itself take everything you’ve got, which surgeons do because we love it, but the hardest part is that it demands so much of our loved ones.

Q: What is the greatest reward of your job?

Working with patients is a privilege. They trust us to make decisions and actions on their behalf when they are under anesthesia, and the honor of that relationship astounds me. As a surgical oncologist, a reward we hope to make happen for as many people as possible is telling them they are cancer-free.

Q: Do you have any family members in Tucson?

I do now! I met my husband here and since he grew up in Tucson I picked up a bunch of family members.

Q: What was the last book you read, and what did you enjoy the most about it?

Funny you should ask. I am working on a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA). Just yesterday I finished an assigned novel, Blue Ravens by Gerold Vizenor. He is White Earth Ojibwe and my father is Turtle Mountain Ojibwe. This was a unique book experience because I got to read the work of a prolific writer who shares our heritage and depicts a geographic region that is my home away from home.

Q: What’s your favorite food indulgence?

Ice cream.

Q: In 20 words or less, describe your perfect day.

After a full-night’s sleep, I would tap dance, sip coffee, go hiking, tangle with literature, and dine with family.

Adapting Deliciously

Here are three local restaurants that have been creative — and socially conscious — in responding to the pandemic.

By Betsy Bruce / Photography by Thomas Veneklasen

Nourishment is around every corner of our city. Breathtaking mountain ranges and blossoming succulents are food for the eyes. Cultural diversity, a rich history and welcoming nature are sustenance for the soul. And our internationally noted, vibrantly creative culinary scene is a feast for the eyes, soul and belly.

As of late we’ve had to modify our lifestyles a bit and not live quite so large. We still hike the canyons and parks but six feet apart. Festivals, concerts, fundraisers and sports have been back-burnered while the curve is flattened.

Comfort comes in the form of pulling up curbside and collecting comfort food from a favorite restaurant. We’ve checked in with a trio of terrific eateries to ask how they are doing, how they’ve modified their business to bridge the tough times, and how they’re giving back to the community.

The Cup Café

The Cup Café in historic Hotel Congress sits at the confluence of Congress, Fourth and Toole Avenues.

Patrons instantly become 10 degrees cooler — simply by entering The Cup. The café has been, and always will be, one of the favorite hangs of our city’s bohemians, artists, musicians and intellectuals. Think part-time resident Diane Keaton clad in denim overalls at a corner table. The Cup’s clay terra cotta floors have been softened by 100 years of footsteps. Walls the color of butter are adorned with sandbox sized sepia depictions of ranch life, and wine bottle chandeliers cast a welcoming glow, white and red striped awnings top picture windows looking out over patio seating.

The Cup Café’s most popular to-go meal is the Mesquite Smoked Rib family dinner.

The Cup has abbreviated its eclectic menu to accommodate takeout. G.M. Todd Hanley explains, “The dishes we offer are a lot of the classics that everyone loves, those that have ingredients readily available, and are efficient to create based on a smaller team of chefs.” The Cup also is selling family size meals, including a sumptuous breakfast called “The Deposition,” featuring cinnamon flapjacks, eggs any which way and peppercorn bacon. Mesquite smoked ribs are a favorite to-go family dinner: laced with cherry chipotle barbecue sauce, accompanied by sides of poblano chile macaroni and cheese and pepper slaw. Grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and seasonal veggies and takeand bake family style meatloaf with bourbon brown sugar glaze are some of the other popular choices. Hanley is happy to report that summer comfort food dishes will be expanded to include vegetarian and vegan options.

A sip to-go from The Cup will soon be dispensed in a sticker-sealed mason jar. Most frequently ordered drinks? The traditional margarita and the Dillinger Day Side Car, the latter composed of Maker’s Mark, Cointreau and lemon. The cocktail’s namesake, legendary gangster John Dillinger, was arrested in 1934 with members of his gang after a stay at Hotel Congress. Hanley knows what he would serve the ghost of Public Enemy Number One should he ever appear from the ether: his eponymous cocktail of course, and, “Our classic Real Thing Burger, finished off with a house-made slice of key lime pie!”

Necessity being the mother of invention, HC Market — a virtual grocery store — was launched when dine-in service was shut down. Guests can order basics, such as produce, bread, milk, eggs and the ever-elusive bathroom tissue. “HC Market has been met with great support and success over all,” Hanley says. “Offering essentials to the community and a safe online/pickup format is a long-term business model we plan to continue. This has been wildly popular, with an average of 100 orders twice a week. The addition of Barrio Bread, Pivot Produce and Decibel Coffee has given us even more exposure.”

Asked what he is most eagerly anticipating once normalcy returns, Hanley observes, “Everyone at Hotel Congress and Maynards [kitty corner across Toole, and under the same ownership] looks forward to the human interaction that’s so critical to the aspect of hospitality. The experience of dining and drinking are not the same unless around fellowship and community.”

Seis Kitchen

Wife and husband Erika and Jake Munoz have grown a food truck into dos locations for Seis Kitchen. The inaugural outpost in the Mercado, just west of I-10 on Avenida del Convento, is designed to have diners place an order at the window and grab a seat in the shaded courtyard. Opened seven years ago, the enterprise proved so popular that the couple decided to open their full-service Seis Kitchen on River Road in the Joesler Village. A stone-topped bar, adorned in argyle black and white, anchors the dining room. Open ceilings are painted sky blue, and from them hang brushed gray ampersand chandeliers. It’s a mod atmosphere in which to enjoy Mexico’s beloved street food.

Mexico City-style Quesadillas are a fan favorite at Seis Kitchen.

The sumptuous burritos are the takeout stars at Seis in this temporary reality (probably doesn’t hurt that they don’t need a fork and knife to eat). Most popular is The Surf and Turf: steak marinated in spices and grilled shrimp, wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla with smashed or black beans, rice, cheese, cabbage, pico de gallo and Seis sauce. Vegetarians can opt for a calabacitas burrito: savory summer squash, zucchini and tomato, simmered with onions, garlic and spices.

Popular pick-up quenchers are Seis’s agua frescas: house-made infused waters such as strawberry-limón, watermelon cucumber and horchata, a sweet cinnamon rice beverage.

Houston Astros pitching coach Brent Strom, who makes his home in Tucson in the off-season, wanted to show his appreciation to each of the selfless frontline employees at St Joseph’s Hospital with an extraordinary lunch.

Mutual friends connected Erika and Jake with Rob Canton, the CEO of Athletes and Causes Foundation, the organization that fulfills such requests through “Project Frontline.” The Munozs readily agreed to match the generous donation and cater the display of gratitude.

It was the afternoon of April 23 when the staff at St. Joe’s encountered the irresistible aromas of Seis Kitchen’s chile verde pork and grilled poc chuc chicken conveying the message, “Thank you for your commitment and passion.” “We received so many gracious and kind words,” Erika recalls. “It was quite overwhelming, actually. The hospital staff were so humble and appreciative, and they are the ones we should be thanking.”

Ninety employees make Seis tick like a Swiss timepiece, and they were the first thing the owners thought of when mandated closures went in to effect March 17. “We were reduced to takeout orders, so we knew sales, and therefore staff hours, were going to be decreased,” comments Erika. “We immediately devised a plan with the help of our general managers and management team to help our crew. We developed a rotating schedule offering hours to everyone and we haven’t furloughed anyone. We put together weekly food boxes of both fresh and pantry items for all of our staff and their families. We are restaurant people. We are food people. This is how we give and show our love and gratitude, through full bellies. They are our family and this is the least that we can do.” For their efforts, the Munozs were honored by Ben’s Bells.

El Charro

In Mexican culture everyone is a part of the family, so Chef Nana Carlotta has taken over cooking dinner for many Tucson families as of late. Carlotta is Carlotta Flores, the Dona of Flores Concepts restaurants, with three El Charro locations in Tucson: Oro Valley, Kolb and Sunrise, and the downtown original spot. Established in 1922, El Charro has been deemed one of Gourmet Magazine’s “Most Legendary Restaurants.”

During the shutdown, El Charro’s extensive menu was streamlined, indicates Ray Flores Jr., Carlotta’s son and president of Flores Concepts. It focused on dishes that “travel” well, taking into consideration production by a smaller kitchen crew.

El Charro Café’s Taco Pollo Arizona is a frequent takeout order.

“Enchiladas are the best sellers for takeout, all flavors and types — carne seca, pork carnitas and chicken mole are all favorites,” reveals Ray. Four family portioned meals are available, serving from four to six adults and up to eight if los niños are at the table. Among those are Nana Carlotta’s build your own tacos — with shredded chicken and carne seca to be folded into a warm tortillas and garnished with whatever the hungry “builder” desires, including cheese, shredded lettuce, and pico de gallo, with sides of beans and rice. Carlotta’s “Enchi-style” chilaquiles is another family takeout favorite — a casserole of Sonoran descent, with local corn tortillas, layered queso Mexicana and choice of red or green enchilada sauces y Mas!

At press time, eighty percent of El Charro’s business was curbside pickup, with larger orders delivered by staff and the balance ferried by third-party services.

Flores is on Pima County’s task force that is helping to guide community efforts to re-open Tucson responsibly.

“As much as it hurts us, we’ve been able to spend time working on projects that have been on our ‘To Do’ shelf for a long time,” Ray says. These include a new on-line ordering system and the food subscription site, where the “tamale challenged” can have Chef Carlotta’s handmade creations shipped to them monthly or quarterly, as well as send delicious tamales as a gift to family, friends and clients.


“We’ve launched several efforts,” adds Ray, “from feeding all of the first responders and fire departments in Southern Arizona for the entire month of April, and then feeding all of the front line nurses and doctors via, as well as many other smaller efforts. El Charro has provided free meals for TIHAN [an organization for AIDS patients], TROT [Therapeutic Riding of Tucson], The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the YMCA and other groups.”

What Ray most desires to do once the pandemic subsides has nothing to do with either food or business, and everything to do with family. “I’m most looking forward to hugging my parents,” he observes.

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Advice from Vets About Pets

Summers in the Southwest can be especially brutal on our four-legged family members. We asked some experts for their best advice on keeping our animal companions healthy and safe.

Mary Minor Davis

Care, Not Cars

We know people like to take their fur babies out to run errands with them, but this is not a good idea if the pet can’t go indoors with you. The Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona’s website shows that at 9 a.m. when the outdoor temperature is 82 degrees, inside a vehicle can heat up to 109 degrees. Cracking open windows results in little to no relief, according to the site. Furthermore, Arizona has now made leaving animals in a vehicle during any time of the year a crime of animal cruelty, and is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, violators face six months in jail, three years of probation, and a $2,500 fine.

Weight For It

Julie Johnston, DVM, at Ina Road Animal Hospital says feeding patterns for smaller domestic animals are especially critical during the summer.

“We know that about 80 percent of dogs and cats are obese, so weight is always a concern,” she says, noting that it’s harder to keep animals active when temperatures rise.

“Keeping pets at a healthy weight is important during the summer months,” she says. Unhealthy weight can lead to higher rates of arthritis issues, breathing issues, and bronchitis, which can be triggered by allergies, and more.

Overweight animals also are more prone to heat exhaustion. Johnston emphasizes that exercising in the early-morning hours and later in the evening is important. Also, any paved surface can burn a pet’s pads if it has been heated by the sun.

“Owners love to walk their dogs on the trails and in washes where there isn’t a lot of shade,” she says. “Dogs will just go, go, go and often you don’t know they’re overheated until they collapse. Providing lots of water, shade and frequent breaks reduces these risks,” she adds.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Southern Arizona is cowboy/cowgirl country, surrounded by a lot of horse properties, recreational riding, and ranching. Summer temperatures require special attention, especially for recreational horses that have become accustomed to owner care and treatment.

Heat is an overwhelming concern here in the desert, but large animals have adapted, says Karla Lombana, DVM, cVMA, and co-owner of Jackpot Veterinary Center. “Our large animals in the desert actually are pretty good at monitoring themselves in the heat, as long as they have a little bit of help, like shade, water and fans.”

Dr. Carla Lombena examines Pearl. Photography by Michael Sultzbach.

Lombana says sometimes owners forget to adjust the obvious things during the shorter, hotter season, like monitoring water troughs. “Metal water troughs get hot and stay hot,” she adds. “Be diligent about cleaning them regularly and getting rid of the algae. Contamination can occur from birds, rodents and other small animals looking for that cool, clean water falling in and drowning. This can cause everything from belly aches to botulism if you don’t clean them out.”

In this part of the country, she adds, horses will burn more energy trying to stay cool so it’s important to double up on their feed.

If dehydration is a concern, or owners want to add more electrolytes to their horse’s diet, Lombana says to stay away from liquid additives in the water. “Horses like cool, clean water, and if you add a flavored supplement that they don’t like, it could make them avoid water,” she says. “It’s easier to add it to the grain, and it has less sugar and other filler that way.”

Summer is an ideal time for fun treats for horses, she adds, such as frozen watermelon, and this is a good way to add electrolytes, as well.

Flies are a natural part of the larger animals’ environment, but this becomes even more important to control in summer months. “It’s tough to do for sure,” Lombana says, but managing manure can be as simple as spreading it around if you can’t remove it altogether. There also are biological methods of controlling fly populations, such as bringing in parasitic wasps.

“Flies can cause rashes, allergies, sores, and other problems,” she explains. “It’s all we can do to get ahead of it in Arizona.” Lombana adds that using topical fly sprays, fly masks and fly deterrents offer some relief.

Just as with your smaller animals, immunizations are important. Because the heat brings on challenges, it’s especially important to make sure you keep up on the spring shots and deworming schedules. This will help horses ward off the agents you’re vaccinating against.

Lombana says vets also will avoid doing other procedures such as castration out in the field in summer months because of the greater likelihood of infections caused by flies and other heat-related issues. Jackpot has the only full-service, large-animal surgical center between New Mexico and Gilbert in Arizona, so if there are surgical services needed they can do them at the center.

Venomous snakes are an additional concern for larger animals, Lombana says. In most cases, horses suffer “dry bites” because the snake is startled when a horse drinks from a trough it is laying near, for example. “Their faces will still swell but they don’t suffer any muscle tissue damage.” Horses should be treated with the antivenom within six to 12 hours of the encounter, she says.

Board … Not Bored!

Summertime also means vacation time! When travel prevents your fur babies from joining you, what do you do to ensure they’ll also have a vacation of their own? Or perhaps you want to offer your pet a day out of the house, but the temperatures are too hot outside.

Boarding or doggie daycare are options, and there are many choices in Southern Arizona. Julie Grounds, owner of Central Pet in Tucson and Ajo, says there are things you should consider in choosing the right venue for your pets, beginning with a personal visit to several locations.

“The first thing I notice when I walk into a boarding business is the smell,” she notes.

Molly and Max enjoy playtime at Central Pet. Photography by Michael Sultzbach.

“There shouldn’t be one — or if there is, it shouldn’t smell like there are animals in the building. This can be a sign that the building isn’t clean, or isn’t cleaned often enough.”

Grounds also says to be sure you get a full tour of the facility so that you can see where the animals play, sleep, and mix with each other, inside and outside.

“This allows you to see if the animals are happy,” she says. “Are they playing with other animals? If there are a lot of animals cowering, it could be a sign that there is some aggression in the room that could cause a safety concern.”

Grounds reminds owners that vaccines must be up to date, including distemper/ parvo, Bordetella, and rabies. “These are mandatory for any boarding or daycare facility, and if they don’t require all three, it’s not a safe option for your pet.”

If your pet requires medication or special care, be sure to discuss how the staff handles dispensing medications, where they will be kept and if there is staff on hand at the facility 24 hours a day in case there are complications.

“The most important thing is to make sure you and your pet will have a positive experience so that they come back and play again,” Grounds says.

Take Your Best Shot

Johnston observes that it’s important to make sure your animals are up to date on vaccines, especially rabies vaccines and parvo for puppies. “We are in an endemic area for parvo,” she adds. “In the summertime, when a lot of litters are born, it is critical that owners get the two-part parvo vaccines.”

Despite Arizona laws that domestic animals must be vaccinated against rabies, there still are pets that are found with rabies. In 2019, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 136 cases of rabies, including domestic animals being exposed to rabid animals, humans exposed to rabid animals, and domestic animals with rabies.

Johnston says the July Fourth holiday and summer monsoons are other times requiring special care for pets, especially those who suffer from anxiety.

“The noise can be traumatic for pets,” she says, noting that many animals run away from their homes if they are not properly contained. “There are lots of medications and aids [such as a Thundershirt Anxiety Jacket for dogs and cats] to help our pets through these events. Giving the meds one or two hours before fireworks or an oncoming storm can help them through it. Some folks also will turn up the television or music to drown out the sound.”

Sneeze the Day

Just as with people, animals who suffer from allergies will see issues arise with the desert in bloom. “Allergies can affect animals year-round in Arizona, but they become particularly troublesome in early spring and again in the fall. Signs include sneezing, red eyes, and licking and chewing at the legs and paws.

“The good news is we now have many more options than just using steroids for treating allergies in animals,” Johnston says. “We can treat with better prescriptions, allergy shots and other immunotherapies.”

Johnston notes that in most animal allergy testing they’ve done, mesquite trees often are the number one cause. “Allergies are an overreaction to the natural environment, and you can’t avoid mesquite trees in the desert.”

This Bites!

Two of the most common Southwestern critters that are dangerous for pets are rattlesnakes and the Colorado River Toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad. Although encounters are rare, they can be lethal for your animals, and treating an encounter quickly will lead to better outcomes. Recently, veterinarians have been offering a snake bite vaccine, but explains Johnston, “The vaccine can interfere with necessary antivenom treatment, which creates a greater danger. The vaccine is best for animals that are too far away to get to a vet within the timeframe needed. Obviously, the longer it takes to get to the bite to treat it, the greater the risk to your pet.”

Johnston adds that the smaller the animal, the greater the risk. Also, severity can depend on where the bite occurs. For example, cats typically are bitten on their paws as they swat at the reptile. The most common bites in dogs are on their hind legs as they are running away from the snake. Bites on the snout are the least problematic as there is little tissue there, whereas bites to the chest can have the highest risk as that area is closest to the heart.

Calls for help after exposure to the Sonoran Desert Toad are less frequent because pets have to engage with the toad to get the poison into their systems. “Ingestion is the greatest concern. Rinsing your pet’s mouth out — with the water pushing the poison out of the side or the front of the mouth for at least 10 minutes — is the best way to reduce any risk. It’s always a good idea to get them to the vet for follow up as quickly as you can.”

Scorpions also can be a concern. The Arizona Bark Scorpion is the most common around the region. Signs of a scorpion sting to look out for include excessive salivation; inappropriate or trouble with urinating and defecating; difficulty breathing; vomiting; and/or excessive licking of one area. If you see the scorpion, try to catch it and take it with you to the vet. Oftentimes, Benadryl will help settle these symptoms, but it is a good idea to follow up with the vet to check if the stinger is still in place.

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Room for More

A spate of construction downtown includes hotels that will cater to everyone from business travelers to casual tourists.

By Tara Kirkpatrick

There’s never been a better time to stay downtown.

After more than 40 years without a new hotel, downtown Tucson landed the hip AC Hotel three years ago, and now is awaiting additional neighbors in the midst of an exhilarating culinary, entertainment and lodging renaissance.

The triumphant launch of Marriott’s boutique concept in 2017 marked the first new downtown hotel since Braniff Place was built in 1973 on 180 W. Broadway. Later becoming Hotel Arizona, it shuttered in 2012, leaving the historic, 40-room Hotel Congress as the lone source for downtown rooms.

“We were proud to be part of a historic moment when the AC Hotel Tucson Downtown became the first new hotel built in four decades,” says Nick Fox, partner of Cima Enterprises, the hotel’s management firm. “Since opening in 2017, we’ve seen an impressive increase of business year over year. We’re privileged to welcome thousands of guests to the property each year, as well as host visitors and locals.”

But the AC is just the beginning. A new DoubleTree by Hilton will open adjacent to the Tucson Convention Center later this year. Hampton Inn and Home2 concepts will follow at Cathedral Square and another developer is planning a hotel in the iconic tower on 1 S. Church Avenue for 2021.

“It’s amazing to see the amount of progress that has been made downtown in the last five to six years,” comments Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson. “Seeing the AC Hotel up and running and having such a fantastic start, it’s really raised the confidence level in other developers to take a look at downtown.”

“Originally, most of the developers were local, but we are now beginning to see a great deal of outside interest,” adds Fletcher McCusker, chairman of Rio Nuevo, the key group that invests state tax dollars in public and private projects for a vibrant city center. Under his leadership, every dollar Rio Nuevo invests yields $10 of privately funded investment.

Today, with numerous restaurants and bars, the Fox and Rialto theaters, the streetcar, the AC Hotel and other exciting hotel projects in the works, “You have a reason to come downtown now,” McCusker notes.

Details have yet to be nailed down, but the former Hotel Arizona is being re-developed by HSL Properties as a Hyatt Regency.

Hampton Inn and Home2 76 Rooms – Hampton 123 Rooms – Home2 Opening 2021

Two Hilton-brand hotels, Hampton Inn and the extended-stay Home2, are being built as a six-story complex near Cathedral Square at Stone Avenue and Ochoa Street.

The dual-hotel project, slated to open in Spring 2021, aims to bring new life to this corner of downtown and will be close to the Tucson Convention Center, says Grey Fay, managing partner of the Dallas-based Fayth Hospitality Group.

“If you draw a circle around downtown, there is really not another extended-stay hotel in that circle. We thought that was an unmet need.”

Fay continues, “The growth in the market there and the revitalization that Rio Nuevo is creating,” is a big reason why the Texas developer chose downtown Tucson. Fay adds, “We’d like to thank the city and Rio Nuevo for supporting the project and enabling us to bring this downtown. Without that kind of support, projects don’t happen.”

AC Hotel Tucson 136 Rooms Opened 2017

AC Hotel Tucson, a Marriott boutique concept that originated overseas, opened to much fanfare not only for its chic, European flair but for the sheer feat of making a new downtown hotel a reality.

The entire project, from concept to opening, took roughly five years, says California-based developer Scott Stiteler, who partnered locally with developer Rudy Dabdoub to build the stylish new lodging.

The striking eight-story building has a parking garage tucked inside, a sixth-floor pool deck with downtown views, a luxe lobby bar and lounge, a fitness center, and 1,500 square feet of meeting space for up to 100 people. Inside, stylish rusts and grays are paired with stone accents and glass train murals in the lobby. Tucson’s own Whiskey del Bac is served in the bar.

“When you open something that has a lot of caché and buzz, the way people received it in the community here, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Stiteler observes. “You see locals come in the lobby and they feel like it’s theirs.”

AC began as a line of independent boutique hotels conceived in 1998 by Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan, who entered into a joint partnership with Marriott in 2011. Tucson was selected as one of the U.S. cities for the brand, along with Miami, New Orleans and Chicago. “That was quite a surprise to us,” says McCusker.

“They picked Tucson along with those cities. The AC Marriott has changed the game for everybody. It’s an attraction in its own right.”

“People are still thrilled about it,” Stiteler enthuses. “The impact it’s having on business with Caterpillar, Raytheon, the University of Arizona … they are all booking here.”

Tower Hotel 150 Rooms Opening 2021

Scottsdale-based Opwest Partners is in the designplanning phase for a nine-floor hotel inside the copper-hued tower at 1 S. Church Avenue.

Multiple chains are interested in the project, which will include 1,500 square feet of meeting space, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and bar, outdoor patios and a marketplace, says Tyler Kent, Opwest managing partner.

“Our property is envisioned to position at the top of the Tucson hotel market and will provide an authentic, higher-end boutique option,” he notes. “Downtown needs at least 600 new and quality hotel rooms for the convention center to better establish itself, grow and remain a sustainable destination for the future. The new hotels downtown will help reduce the loss of business that would otherwise be committing to TCC, as well as induce new demand.

“I am a native of Tucson and I want to add value,” Kent adds. “New development and capital investment will help stimulate the Tucson economy, create jobs, etc. There also is a huge gap in the Tucson market when it comes to hotel product. The AC has done very well and is a great example of what downtown needs more of.”

Tucson Convention Center, DoubleTree by Hilton 170 Rooms Opening 2020

A DoubleTree by Hilton adjacent to the Tucson Convention Center is planned to open later this year and will not only serve the conference attendee, but also theater, music and sports buffs who want a place to dine before and after events and shows.

The hotel will feature a rooftop pool with bar on the second floor, a restaurant with ample outdoor seating and a new parking garage. Its interior will showcase Tucson’s history and other beautiful Arizona landscapes and gems, says Roy Bade, executive vice president for Scottsdale-based Caliber, a wealth development company that also completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of Hilton Tucson East.

“Caliber is excited to be a part of Tucson’s growth,” Bade comments. “We have truly enjoyed working with our many partners on this project and are excited for the future of downtown Tucson.”

The TCC, which hosts the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show each year and is home to the Tucson Roadrunners professional hockey team, the Tucson Sugar Skulls professional indoor football team, and the main venue for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and many other groups, has long needed a nearby place for visitors to stay.

“The Tucson Music Hall and the Leo Rich Theater are there,” he says. “Sometimes, people want to stay and have dinner or a cocktail before or after a show. They want to make an evening of it. They will now have the ability to stay on site and have a relaxing evening.”

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Winsome in White

Many makeovers have taken a ranch-style home
from its 1970s roots, into the 21st century.

By Debby Larsen / Photos by Amy Haskell

Situated on the edge of a golf course, the home of Debbie and Mike McGovern has been transformed over a more than 30-year period. Today, it is a serene scene in shades of ecru and white. The carefully curated interior furnishings all have a vintage vibe. In contrast, the carefully tended gardens are brimming with bright, colorful hues.

Debbie’s parents — Bob and Irene Lee — raised their four children in this neighborhood. Debbie fondly recalls her childhood days riding bikes, playing tennis and swimming in this small community. “I guess I never wanted to leave those happy memories,” she muses.

Not only were the McGoverns able to purchase a house that is just blocks away from Debbie’s childhood residence, Debbie’s brothers Robert and Mike also found homes in this neighborhood. “It makes family gatherings very convenient,” Debbie says with a laugh.

When constructed, the ranch-style home was typical of the ’70s, with its low ceilings, dark wood tones, carpet and tile. Debbie and Mike slowly removed all the remnants of that era. “I grew up in a Spanish Colonial-style home with its dark furniture and saturated color scheme,” Debbie notes. “When decorating my own home, I chose to go with a much brighter approach. I wanted to create décor that was light and airy.”



Over the decades, the couple has taken their time remodeling the house, tackling just a few projects at a time. Early efforts involved removing all the original carpeting and tile and constructing a garage. French doors were added to the dining area, which now opens up to their front garden. “It gets lovely morning light, and it’s a great spot for enjoying a cup of coffee,” Debbie adds.

More space was gained by removing a wall between the living and dining areas. This resulted in a large room that the McGoverns extended into the original garage space.

“My thought for choosing an allwhite theme was to create the illusion of increased space. The low ceilings always felt closed in,” she says.

Most walls are painted in shades of white, with just a few rooms in very pale hues. The flooring consists of wide wooden planks, also painted white.

A flood in the kitchen area prompted the last bit of remodeling. All the remnants of the dated space are now gone, and it is modern, open and bright, with white cabinetry, shimmering backsplash tile and marble countertops. Debbie chose several cabinets with glass fronts to showcase their dinnerware collections. In the adjacent breakfast nook, an antique armoire provides pantry storage.

Over the years, Debbie has been drawn to a vintage look for her décor, little by little adding to her collection. Her favorite pieces have been found in places such as antique shops, used furniture stores and estate sales. “I love the look of weathered wear. I don’t mind the bumps, cracks and peeling paint. I think it adds character,” she remarks. “My white-on-white theme is not only very calming, but it makes a nice backdrop for my vintage finds.”

In direct contrast to the subdued interior vibe, Debbie chose to add abundant color in the gardens. As an avid gardener, she spends many hours nurturing her large variety of plants. “Yes, it takes time to water, but, I enjoy the serenity of watering by hand,” she says.

Both front and backyard landscapes are adorned with large containers of bright, colorful annuals with several perennials tucked here and there. Debbie works diligently to keep all her gardens looking great throughout three seasons of the year. “I take a break when the summer heat arrives. Then, it’s time for relaxing in the pool and early morning tennis games.” The grass around the pool is kept looking good with reclaimed water.

In late September, when the hottest weather subsides, Debbie thinks about planting her fall and winter gardens. By Oct. 1, she begins choosing and planting her favorite annuals and replenishing her herb and vegetable gardens.

The cooler winter weather slows down their growth a bit, but they perk up in February and are glorious through April.

Debbie has a passion for roses. “I appreciate the unique varieties and fragrances that only garden roses can offer.”

Along the backyard wall — adjacent to the driving range — was the perfect place for a rose collection. After encountering problems with gophers, she repurposed large metal containers for the plants. “That way I can control the watering and fertilizing. I do a hard prune in January resulting in abundant blooms in spring. This coincides nicely with the time of our family’s Easter brunch. By then, the raised garden beds are abundant with herbs and spring vegetables.”

A long covered patio is well utilized for entertaining. Always on the lookout for interesting finds, Debbie rescued a well-worn metal prep table from the University of Arizona Pi Phi Sorority house’s renovation. Now in its new home, the piece works great as a buffet, while adding a touch of nostalgia from her college days.


Roses: Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, (520) 721-8600 Antiques: Tom’s Fine Furniture and Collectables,



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