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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shelton wants $230 M for science center

    After requesting nearly $230 million in city funded aid for the Rio Nuevo UA Science Center and Arizona State Museum with little avail, President Robert Shelton said he is now more encouraged by recent cooperative responses made within the city government.

    “”They didn’t say, here’s your money,”” Shelton said of conversations this week with Mayor Bob Walkup and Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, chair of the Rio Nuevo Project. “”But they seemed very encouraging about wanting to work together on this.””

    According to the proposal given to the city council by Shelton in December, the UA listed its financial commitment to both the UA Science Center and the Arizona State Museum at a combined $10.6 million dollars per year, during the lifetime of both institutions.

    Investing $230 million might be more than we can afford, if we want to achieve the goal of creating an economic engine downtown
    – Andrew Greenhill, chief of staff, Mayor Bob Walkup

    The attractions are expected to contribute about $3.5 million dollars per year for city, county and state revenues, and will represent about 55 percent of the attendance proposal of West side attractions, the proposal states.

    In return, the UA requested $166 million in capital funding for the construction and development of the UA Science Center, and $62 million for the Arizona State Museum.

    “”I am not willing to adjust the proposal at this point,”” Shelton said. “”Just because I don’t know what to adjust it to.””

    In the case of the museum, however, that may not be enough of a return to support such an investment, said Andrew Greenhill, chief of staff to Mayor Bob Walkup.

    “”The question now is, how do we strike that balance of investment in cultural projects like museums versus

    investments in attractions like hotels that are likely to generate more money?”” Greenhill said.

    From the standpoint of the city government, Greenhill said the Rio Nuevo project should accomplish the goals of creating both a downtown that Tucson can be proud of, and also shifting the downtown area into an economic engine.

    “”Investing $230 million might be more than we can afford, if we want to achieve the goal of creating an economic engine downtown,”” Greenhill said.

    In order to help create extra financial cushioning that could potentially compensate such a request, Greenhill said the city is saving a portion of sales taxes from the downtown district to the El Con Mall, known as TIF funds.

    However, Greenhill added, it is too soon to tell if TIF funds alone will be able to support the request of the UA.

    “”Mayor Walkup supports a science center for Rio Nuevo but it’s a bit premature to say what the proper scope of the project is and how to get the funding,”” Greenhill said.

    Although the UA Science Center is expected to serve as the anchor of the Rio Nuevo project on the west side of downtown, providing educational opportunities for 434,000 people per year, Greenhill said that the mayor is also interested in exploring additional ways that the UA can contribute to Rio Nuevo.

    One of those ways may be to partner up in developing a trolley system that would link downtown to major campus hotspots, Greenhill said

    “”We are looking forward to a number of potential projects and a larger commitment with the UA,”” Greenhill said. “”The street car project to link downtown to the UA is more than just a way of transportation, it’s a symbol of our partnership and belief that great city needs great university, and vice versa.””

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