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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA asks city for $130 mil.

    The UA is moving forward with a redesigned facility downtown that will combine a science center and the Arizona State Museum, and it is asking the city to pay for the building’s $130 million construction.

    City Manager Mike Hein, who worked on the redesign in conjunction with the UA, said he has tentative plans to bring the proposal before the Tucson City Council at its May 15 meeting.

    Hein said he is more optimistic about sending this proposal to the council than he would have been with past arrangements.

    Previous plans had asked for two separate downtown facilities for the science center and museum. The science center alone was projected to have cost $175 million in the fall.

    “”It’s going to tie the community to its past as well as with its future.””
    – Mike Hein,
    city manager

    Leslie Tolbert, vice president of research at the UA, said the new scaled-back redesign better reflects financial realities of the Tucson budget.

    “”It was clear the city of Tucson can’t afford a stand-alone science center,”” Tolbert said.

    Instead, Tolbert said she is excited about the possibilities of the hybrid facility, including plans to have certain exhibits overlap, drawing both from museum collections and science center displays.

    “”It’s going to tie the community to its past as well as with its future,”” Hein said.

    If council members approve the $130 million facility, money for its construction will come from a tax increment financing district – in other words, without using taxpayer money.

    The facility itself will be more financially viable because it will have common ticketing, gift shops and possibly a restaurant, Tolbert said.

    The UA will be in charge of operating the center and providing exhibits.

    But the downtown attraction should be self-sustaining financially so that it does not cost any new money to run, Tolbert said. The facility is not a profit-seeking venture for the university, she said.

    President Robert Shelton’s “”very up-front attitude”” was a big factor in getting the project to its current state because Shelton had asked for a final proposal to be finished by April 15, Hein said.

    Councilwoman Nina Trasoff said this proposal stands a much better chance of passing than prior ones because it represents “”a very strong spirit of cooperation”” between the city and the university.

    “”It was much more of a partnership this time, rather than one party working in a vacuum,”” Hein said.

    “”The State Museum is busting at the seams. They’ll be able to breathe again.””
    – Leslie Tolbert,
    vice president of research

    Tolbert said employees and equipment from the Flandrau Science Center will be moving downtown and the on-campus building given some other purpose, but campus facilities for the Arizona State Museum will still be in use.

    “”The State Museum is busting at the seams,”” Tolbert said. “”They’ll be able to breathe again.””

    Hein said the facility will occupy the same land as was planned for the original science center, a 5-acre plot west of the Santa Cruz River and south of the Cushing Street Bridge.

    Tolbert said the land allotted is purposefully larger than the proposed building to provide for the possibility of a future expansion.

    The city has not yet determined how the remaining land in the Rio Nuevo downtown renovation project, including that previously allocated for the State Museum, will be used, Hein said.

    Trasoff said the city has begun work on trying to get private developers to plan for hotels, stores and other commercial buildings.

    Despite its scaled-down size and newly imagined purpose, Trasoff said she has confidence the new building will still be as positive a force in the area as a stand-alone science center.

    “”It will be a major gift to the west side,”” Trasoff said, adding that while it may have the most impact on that specific area of town, the cultural attraction will benefit the whole city.

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