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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The UA’s new Mall

    For one reason or another, once you head north of Speedway Boulevard, you don’t really feel like you’re on the UA campus anymore. University buildings are interspersed with private ones, parking lots are mixed in with houses like a checkerboard and the UA Mall feels like it’s miles away.

    McClelland Hall, the James E. Rogers College of Law and the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building don’t seem too isolated, but University Medical Center feels so far away we might as well call it UA North.

    Three years ago, to get from the Arizona Health Sciences Library to the Student Union Memorial Center, students had to cross streets, parking lots and neighborhoods to get back to the main part of campus. It didn’t feel like a jaunt across campus. It didn’t even feel safe.

    But thanks to David Duffy, that’s changing. As director of campus and facilities planning, he oversees decisions about how the UA will grow physically. One of the biggest goals: to make the area of campus north of Speedway Boulevard, especially the area also east of Highland Avenue, feel closer.

    “”Really, it’s not that far. The distance from Old Main to Campbell Avenue, the edge of the Mall, is about the same as the distance from the edge of the Mall to UMC. The problem is that people perceive it as being much farther.””

    The expansion of the northern part of campus has been perhaps the biggest construction trend of the past few years. After finishing the Student Union Memorial Center in 2003, the UA began tearing down entire swaths of neighborhood where we now have the Highland Avenue Parking Garage and the nearly finished Health Sciences Center and Medical Research Center.

    Right now the priority is of course finishing the construction of those two buildings, which will cost $60 million each, according to Duffy. But once they are done, the UA will have a much more substantial presence north of campus.

    That will be an important part of the UA’s next big plan – to connect the northern part of campus to the rest of it with a new Mall along Warren Avenue.

    It makes sense. Anyone who has parked north of campus for a basketball game has taken the same path: Head north from the McKale Center gates. Cross the Mall, then pass by Hillenbrand Stadium, following Warren Avenue under Speedway Boulevard until it runs into the construction site on Helen Street.

    But in another year, that path won’t run into a barbed wire fence. It will keep going, all the way to the medical library. Eventually the UA wants to unify the path, giving it a feel similar to the current Mall. On one schematic diagram, that means a lot of trees and benches.

    It will be a path that students will enjoy walking. One that will make the campus feel smaller and more intimate. It’s a welcomed change. Imagine the campus without the current Mall. It wouldn’t feel unified. More than the geographical center of campus, the Mall is the emotional one. It’s arguably more iconic than Old Main, Arizona Stadium or “”A”” Mountain.

    The Warren Mall will likewise be the new icon of North Campus.

    But that is not all the UA has planned. Duffy says the UA plans to eventually build a walkway that cuts diagonally from the medical library west and south toward Highland Avenue.

    Ironically, the distance between north and south campus will become less important in the next few years, since the new buildings north of Speedway Boulevard will mean a lot more people there. For those people, it is the campus. And there are still many more plots for the UA to build on.

    But for now, north campus still feels way too far away.

    Sigma Kappa sorority moved in 2004 from the northern end of the Highland Underpass to Second Street because it didn’t feel like a part of campus. Its members say they felt like outcasts from greek row and that it hurt recruitment. Never mind they were merely a water-balloon launch away from Alpha Phi Sorority; it was a different world.

    But if UA planners have their way, soon it will just feel normal.


    Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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