The Arizona Motel was officially sold to community leaders in South Tucson on Wednesday. For two years, workers with the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen were saving to purchase several properties within the city of South Tucson for affordable housing.
Earlier this year, they purchased the El Camino Motel and are having it renovated. The funds to purchase the Arizona Motel came earlier than expected, but they were eager to put the money to good use.
Brian Flagg is one of the workers for the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen and is a council member for the City of South Tucson. Hes known for his work because hes lived and served the city of South Tucson for over 40 years.
Just last week, he proved how devoted he is to the cause.
A few weeks ago, I inherited a million bucks from my mom and dad, who my mom recently passed. So, what am I going to do with the money? So, that money is basically the down payment, a million bucks, for this hotel, said Flagg.
One of his partners in the deal, Roxanna Valenzuela who also works for Casa Maria and is a South Tucson City Councilmember, shared the news of his donation. She knew how important the purchase was in keeping affordable housing in the city and preventing further gentrification.
The Arizona Motel has been serving South Tucson since 1930, and were hoping to keep it in the community and off the speculative market to continue serving those who need it the most, the most vulnerable communities, said Valenzuela.
With downtown Tucson less than two miles away, Valenzuela and Flagg were worried this property was at risk. Now that the purchase is complete, their plan is to keep the rent the same for the current, longtime residents.
A lot of the people at the Arizona Motel or are guests here are people that we serve at the soup kitchen. Its people that have nowhere else to go, said Valenzuela.
Valenzuela and Flagg are still hoping to raise another $7 million in donations to purchase two other properties, the Paradise Inn and the Star Motel. This will provide a total of 365 affordable housing units all within the one square mile of South Tucson.
This is the front line of defending our barrio and making it so that poor people who live here now can continue to live here instead of the gentrification of South Tucson, said Flagg.