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University of Arizona breaks ground on Chemistry building add-on

Chris Richards

The University of Arizona held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Chemistry building on Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021. Photo courtesy by Chris Richards/UA News

The University of Arizona has begun work on a renovation of the campus’ Chemistry building as well as a new facility called The Commons. 

According to a news release issued by the university, the renovated Chemistry building, also known as Old Chem, will include “departmental and advising offices and numerous work spaces for Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty; renovated space for nuclear magnetic resonance equipment and electronic and metal shops; a new General Education Office; and three teaching studios for online instruction.” 

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While much of the interior of the original building was demolished by Sundt construction crews in May, the front facade was left standing “to retain the aesthetic character of the University of Arizona Mall.” The project will cost $42 million and is expected to be finished by December of 2022.

The redesign will also feature seven new collaborative classrooms, four of which will be in Old Chem. 

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Teaching and Learning Gail Burd said over email that the new classrooms “are designed to encourage cooperation, inclusive practices and active learning to increase student and faculty engagement, and help students develop workplace-relevant skills.”

At a groundbreaking ceremony that took place on Tuesday, Oct. 19, Dean of the College of Science Carmala Garzione said that the project was a “reimagination of Old Chem, as we lovingly call it.” 

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Other speakers at the event included UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Liesl Folks and Allison Rainey, the principal architect at Shepley Bulfinch, the architecture firm responsible for the new building design. 

A time capsule meant to be opened if the facility is ever demolished and replaced was also buried during the ceremony. The time capsule contained notes and mementos left by attendants. 

For updates on the project, visit

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