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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Letters to the editor: UA proposal to cost $80-160 million

In response to “UA proposal to cost $80-160 million” (by Mark Armao, June 12):

Downtown Tucson has been identified as a critical element in the future success of our community. In response, the University of Arizona is proposing to collaborate with Pima County on initiatives that would help revitalize the downtown area, making Tucson a better place to live for those here now and for the creative and talented individuals we all hope to attract.

The UA and Pima County are exploring two exciting projects that potentially could help transform the cultural and educational landscape in downtown Tucson, and serve as a major economic boost as well. As part of requests for the 2014 Pima County bond election, the UA and Pima County propose a new 120,000-square-foot museum to house the UA’s extensive photography and art collections (which currently lack sufficient space to be exhibited), offering a world-class component to a proposed downtown cultural and arts enhancement project.

In addition, the county is proposing a Small Business Entrepreneur and Academic Center office tower that, in addition to county and other offices, could house UA academic programs and provide space to support start-up business ventures advanced by the UA McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.

The university is seeking to collaborate on a solution to mutual problems in a way that exceeds the sum of its parts: Tucson needs a vibrant downtown and the UA has critical needs in its museums and programmatic space that must be addressed. We have proposed to invest our collections, management, operations and expertise to help develop Tucson’s central arts and cultural district into a major tourist destination and economic driver.

The role of a vibrant downtown is so essential that it was recognized as one of five key goals in the regional economic development blueprint developed by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), our region’s economic development organization. One of TREO’s goals is to “revitalize Tucson’s urban center so that it excites, attracts and economically benefits the entire region.”

TREO, the City of Tucson, Pima County and the University all recognize that our downtown presents a tremendous opportunity for this community. TREO states: “Any community’s downtown is not only its outward face, but an integral component of its economic heart and soul. Tucson is no different, and desperately needs a vibrant downtown that includes a robust balance of office workers, residents, cultural and entertainment venues and important linkages with the University of Arizona.”

A sustainable future for Tucson will, in part, be dependent upon how successful we are in retaining and attracting a young, skilled workforce. The “millennial generation,” those born between 1983 and 2001, are attracted to culturally rich, walkable, urban centers like downtown Tucson. Urban planner William Fulton describes how millennials migrate to hip, metro areas, such as Seattle, and smaller cities such as Boulder, Colo. — and employers follow.

“They’re making location decisions based on their idea of quality of life,” Fulton advises communities like Tucson. “There’s still time for second-tier cities and older suburbs to create the compelling places that will be required to succeed in the 21st-century economy.”

In addition to having a vibrant entertainment district, Downtown Tucson has spawned a new “start-up ecosystem,” comprised of innovative people, start-up companies in various stages and shared work spaces. Combine that with future millennial-driven downtown corporate relocations, a world-class museum, additional university programs, recreational amenities and attractive housing choices, and you now have the type of compelling urban environment that can compete with top-tier cities.

Perhaps the UA could ignore exploring how the mutual needs of the university and our community can be addressed by creative thinking. But our Land Grant heritage mandates that we not only teach, but that we innovate and empower individuals and communities.

The university can help downtown Tucson become a hub for international development, sustainable urban design, as well as for critical initiatives in global public policy.

Further, Tucson is fortunate to possess one of the most significant collections of cultural assets in the Southwest. Collaborative strategic planning and investment by Pima County, the City of Tucson and the University of Arizona can help bring these collections together, potentially helping our city become “The Cultural Capital of Arizona.”

-Michael Proctor, UA vice president, regional development, outreach & global initiatives and dean, Outreach College

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