A downtown landmark, unplugged 26 years ago, could soon be lighting up the skyline again.
Pima County is soliciting bids to replace the 55-year-old guts of the time-and-temperature clock on top of the legal-services building on North Stone Avenue near Pennington Street.
The clock was unplugged for good in 1987 when the county took over the building, originally known as the Tucson Federal Savings Tower, because of excessive maintenance costs.
The clock originally came to town in 1958 and was placed at another Tucson Federal Savings and Loan location.
It was the first such device in Tucson and was the only one of its kind in the area, as the company that leased the unusual timepiece would allow only one per city.
It moved to its current location in 1966, when the Lew Place-designed Tucson Federal Savings Tower was built at 32 N. Stone Ave. The building changed names several times before becoming the Pima County Legal Services Building after the county bought it in 1987.
Sitting atop what was, for more than 10 years, Tucson’s tallest structure, the scrolling time-and-temperature message board could be seen for miles in all directions.
But by the time the county took over the building, the 60-foot-wide and 15-foot-tall device had become difficult and costly to maintain, said Reid Spaulding, the facilities management director for the county.
Burned-out bulbs, for example, required a maintenance worker to climb a ladder perched between the massive sign and the ledge of the 20-story building.
The idea to restore the clock to its former glory came from Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation Board.
The nonprofit has had some successes with saving old signs. Most notable was its success in saving some of the neon signs that once welcomed visitors on Miracle Mile.
Clinco brought the idea to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who has in the past nixed the idea of resurrecting the sign.
The biggest concern in the past has been price, with estimates topping $250,000 to fix the sign.
The new proposal seeks to replace the aging light bulbs with LEDs, opening the door to a sign that can tell residents more than just the time and current temperature.
One possibility, Clinco concedes, is renting out space on the sign to advertisers to defray the costs of resurrecting the sign and the day-to-day operating expenses.
Clinco said the only way forward for the time-and- temperature sign is to make it cost-neutral for the county, with either state or federal grants, as well as advertisers paying a large chunk of the bill.