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Tucson's historic Pima County Courthouse gets new life commemorating the past

The historic Pima County Courthouse in Tucson is reopening to the public this week, after almost a decade.

Marked by a giant dome covered in sky blue tiles, the courthouse is a Tucson landmark. But all court business moved from the site in 2014 and the county has been making multimillion-dollar improvements ever since.

Speaking at a reopening event there Tuesday, Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said it’s weathered the Great Depression, cycles of urban renewal and even a few floods. 

“And so today we are not only celebrating a successful government project — giving an old building new purpose — but we are also here to celebrate our sense of place and why we call this place home,” she said. 

The site is also home to a long-awaited memorial commemorating the mass shooting that targeted and almost killed then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords on Jan. 8, 2011. Ron Barber served as Giffords’ district director at the time and was one of 13 people injured in the attack. Six others were killed.

“It is here for all time, so that we will never forget those that were killed, those that were wounded and survived," Barber said. “We offer that up to everybody in this community that supported us then, and continues to support us today.”

The building now hosts the non-profit tourism group, Visit Tucson, and attractions like the University of Arizona’s Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum and another installation about John Dillinger, the crime leader arrested in Tucson in 1934.

In addition to Barber and Bronson, speakers at Tuesday’s event included Pima County Chief Deputy Administrator Jan Lesher, Joaquin Ruiz, executive director of the gem and mineral museum, Brent DeRaad, who leads the non-profit tourism group, Visit Tucson, and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. 

The event also honored Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry, who was seriously injured in a road bike accident in October and is still recovering in the hospital. Lesher said Huckleberry was one of the biggest driving forces behind the renovation. 

“This was a real passion of his, and his real vision," she said. “We’re moving on to celebrate his vision and everything he wanted to happen, and we’ll have him back with us when he can celebrate as well.”

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.