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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA expansion proposal for downtown to cost $80-$160 million


Several UA administrators are working with city and county officials on a proposal to build two new university buildings in downtown Tucson.

The proposal would expand the university’s downtown presence by incorporating UA-related programs into an office tower, and by relocating two expansive art collections into a new museum.

The UA portion of the proposal would cost between $80-160 million, said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. The Pima County Bond Advisory Committee will vote on the proposal next fall.

The proposed office tower would be a 220,000-square-foot, 10-story building that would be used for multiple purposes including retail services and county functions, according to George Humphrey, the interim assistant vice president for university communications.

About a third of the building would be used for UA-related purposes, including academic space as well as office space to “support start-up business ventures advanced by the UA McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship,” Humphrey said.

According to Huckelberry, the increased business opportunities would also boost the downtown economy not only by attracting students and entrepreneurs, but by bringing back businesses and commerce that have been decentralized over the last 40 years.

Also proposed is the construction of a 125,000-square-foot museum to showcase UA’s extensive photography and art collections.

Although a specific site has not yet been selected, Vice President of Business Affairs Bob Smith said relocating the museum downtown will not only increase the number of visitors, but also add to the “cultural enrichment of the area.”

The museum currently houses more than 6,000 pieces, valued at more than $500 million, including rare art from Europe and the United States, according to Humphrey.

The collection, along with artwork from the Center for Creative Photography, including works by renowned photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, would be combined under one roof according to the proposal.

Currently, these facilities are undersized and underutilized by the community, Smith said.

“We desperately need a new building,” said Lauren Rabb, a curator at the UA Museum of Art. Along with being old, Rabb said the building’s lack of space means that only a small percentage of the collection can be shown at one time.

Both projects are still in the early planning phase and Huckelberry noted that both the office space and the museum could end up being combined into one building.

The planners are using ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus as a model for their proposal. Established in 2006, the campus cost over $200 million and was paid for by the city of Phoenix through a bond bill.
The final vote by the Bond Advisory Committee to approve the proposals for Tucson’s project will take place in November 2014.

“These two ideas of potential business center, academic program and museum complex all contribute to the urban development that would help to make the city a place where our UA graduates and other young professionals would want to live,” Smith said.

If approved, the projects would add to a long list of developments enacted by the city to help revitalize the downtown area.

“I know the community has long struggled to turn downtown into a real destination,” Humphrey said. “If some of these plans come to fruition, downtown Tucson’s going to be a pretty amazing place.”

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