The Alva B Torres Plaza in downtown Tucson is a prominent public space in the city and is an important gathering place for locals and visitors alike. This article will explore the history of the plaza, its design and features, and its significance in the community. The City of Tucson dedicated the TCC Plaza in honor of Alva Bustamante Torres, a fourth-generation Tucsonan and community activist. The official recorded dedications and renaming of both the TCC Music Hall to the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall and the TCC Plaza to Alva Bustamante Torres Plaza occurred simultaneously. She was particularly involved in historic preservation efforts of Mexican-American cultural sites. Alva spearheaded these efforts in the early 1970s to preserve La Plaza de la Mesilla in downtown Tucson at the time when massive urban renewal in that area was taking place. Author Lydia Otero advocates for permanence in honor of the work of Alva Torres, an activist for the historic preservation of the old barrio in the ‘60s in her book titled, “La Calle”1. She was an original member of the Tucson Historic Areas Committee which eventually became part of the Tucson Pima County Historic Commission. Alva was one of the first Mexican American women to have a syndicated column in a major newspaper, The Tucson Citizen. This TCC Plaza now bears her name and story which was named in honor and recognition of her contributions to the community on December 9, 2022. According to Arizona Daily Star Opinion writers Betty Villegas and Alisha Vasquez, "Having made significant contributions to our Mexican American community, Alva Torres is totally deserving of this honor."2
This location, once known as “La Calle”, was a thriving ethnically diverse center of Tucson, but the City’s “Urban Renewal” Project of the 1960s changed that. Urban Renewal demolished the landscape and removed hundreds of residents and businesses from the area which mainly consisted of low-income minorities. However, this sparked a new activism for former Tucson Citizen columnist Alva Torres, who led the charge to help preserve many culturally important structures. This newly named “Alva Bustamante Torres Plaza” now bears the name of her story and advocacy.3
The Alva B Torres Plaza is an important part of the city's public space network. The plaza is connected to several other important public spaces, including Jacome Plaza, Jácome Library, and Armory Park. These spaces are connected by a network of pedestrian-friendly streets and sidewalks, which make it easy for people to walk and bike around the city. In recent years, there have been several efforts to revitalize the plaza and make it an even more attractive and functional public space. In 2014, the city of Tucson completed a renovation of the plaza that included the installation of new benches, tables, and lighting. The renovation also included the installation of new landscaping, including trees and shrubs, which help to shade the space and create a more inviting atmosphere.
Photo: Alva B. Torres
Location and Design:
The plaza is located in the heart of downtown Tucson and covers an area of approximately one acre. It is bounded by Stone Avenue to the east, Church Avenue to the west, Pennington Street to the north, and Alameda Street to the south. The plaza is situated near several important landmarks, including the Pima County Courthouse, the Tucson Convention Center, and the Joel D. Valdez Main Library. The plaza was designed by the Tucson-based landscape architecture firm, Design Collaborations. The design of the plaza was influenced by the historic Spanish colonial architecture of Tucson, and features a number of distinctive elements that reflect the city's unique character. The plaza is centered around a large fountain that serves as a focal point for the space. The fountain is surrounded by a circular seating area that is shaded by large trees. The kiosk contains various photos, clippings, and information that is meant to catch people's attention and inform them about what this location once represented. It tells about the history of Urban Renewal, the stories of those who were relocated, and the efforts made by the Tucson Pima County Historic Commission to preserve a remnant of structures for future generations. Most significantly, the plaza stands directly behind the preserved Sosa-Carrillo House which is now the Mexican-American Heritage Museum.
Photo: Kiosk located within the plaza indicates significant contributions of Alva B. Torres.
The Alva B Torres Plaza is an important gathering place for the community. The plaza is used for a wide variety of events, including concerts, festivals, and cultural celebrations. The plaza is also a popular spot for people to relax and socialize. It is not uncommon to see people enjoying a picnic lunch, reading a book, or playing a game of chess in the plaza. The plaza is also an important symbol of the city's commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Tucson is a city with a rich cultural heritage, and the plaza is a reflection of that diversity. The plaza is frequently used to celebrate the cultural traditions of Tucson's many ethnic and racial groups. For example, the plaza hosts an annual Dia de los Muertos celebration, which is a Mexican holiday that honors the dead. The plaza is also a popular spot for cultural performances, including dance and music.
The plaza is also an important location for public art in downtown Tucson. The plaza features a number of sculptures and murals that reflect the cultural traditions and history of the city. For example, there is a sculpture of a quail that is a tribute to Tucson's abundant birdlife, a mural that depicts the city's agricultural heritage, photos depicting what downtown Tucson looked like prior to the Urban Renewal project, and Candelarias inscribed with the names of individuals and businesses that were involved in the fight against the destruction of the barrios.
Kiosk looking toward what was previously Meyer St., Downtown Tucson's main thoroughfare.
Diversity and Inclusion:
Overall, the Alva B Torres Plaza is an important public space in downtown Tucson. The plaza is a symbol of the city's commitment to diversity and inclusivity which include design and features which reflect the unique character of Tucson. In addition, the plaza is located in a historically significant area of Tucson. The plaza is situated near the El Presidio Historic District, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The district features a number of historic buildings and sites, including the Tucson Museum of Art and the Old Pima County Courthouse.
Finally, it is worth noting that the Alva B Torres Plaza is just one of many public spaces in downtown Tucson that are worth exploring. The city has a rich network of parks, plazas, and open spaces that are designed to bring people together and foster a sense of community. These spaces are a testament to the city's commitment to public space and its recognition of the importance of creating vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming environments for all.
1. Otero, Lydia R. La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City. University of Arizona Press, 2010.
2. Betty Villegas and Alisha VasquezSpecial to the Arizona Daily Star. “Local Opinion: Rename TCC Plaza and Music Hall after Dos Mujeres Tucsonenses.” Arizona Daily Star, 30 Apr. 2022, https://tucson.com/opinion/local/local-opinion-rename-tcc-plaza-and-music-hall-after-dos-mujeres-tucsonenses/article_0c3fd358-c5ac-11ec-8bf1-abd0b7f9365d.html.
3. DeSoto, John. AZPM, https://news.azpm.org/s/96112-alva-torres-plaza/.