Gangplank Tucson recently moved from the Bookman’s warehouse in south Tucson to the first floor of the historic Pioneer building in downtown. This eleven story building was once the epicenter of activity in downtown Tucson. However, it now sits more than 50 percent vacant. Gangplank has taken on the task of trying to re-energize this historic gem.
The transition has come with a rapid series of changes. In addition to the Gangplank Tucson crew working hard to fix up their facility, they started programming for all of Gangplank’s initiatives, and there has been an explosion of interest in Gangplank. This community that is literally years in the making is quickly coming together to be a hub of activity impacting their city in significant ways.
Their renovations started with taking down built in cubicle walls in order to make the building fit Gangplank’s collaborative style of “no walls or physical barriers”. Then there was some new carpet and plenty of painting. I headed down about 2 weeks ago just for the day to pitch in with some of the painting.
Last week, I headed down again to spend the week with the Gangplank Tucson crew. While there, I got to see the next step of renovations, the new concrete floors. Unfortunately, this meant that much of the activity in the space was limited so I only got to meet the hardcore group that came in during renovations.
I started out my week by getting dinner with several Tucson Gangplankers. They made my visit much easier by offering a room in their home for my stay and offering up a ton of advice on places to check out during my visit (thanks Bob and Therese!).
True to the spirit of Gangplank, upon moving downtown, GP Tucson dove in and became very active in the downtown community. While visiting, I tagged along to a few meetings with fellow Gangplankers. I got to know many of the key players impacting economic development downtown including attending a meeting for the Downtown Innovation District. The meeting was held in the Maker house, a fellow innovation center that is soon to open. The Downtown Innovation District came about due to talks between Ganglank, Maker House and a few other local innovation oriented organizations. Much like us, Maker House is also working to renovate their space. I was fortunate to get a tour and hear some of the extremely unique history of their building. In a prior life, it was the Rocky Mountain Oyster Club’s building. Complete with a historic mural that needs restoration and 3 separate pools that have been filled in, this tour was one of the highlights of my week. There is no denying that Downtown Tucson is an exciting place to be right now.
The best part of the week by far though was the people. There is no doubt that I enjoy being around Gangplankers regardless of their geographical location. I loved hearing their stories, laughing with them, and seeing how they are working to create a community that they are proud to live, work, and play in. I can’t wait to visit them again!