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By Mary Fan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 27, 1998

IIF construction to begin in the fall


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy of Gresham and Beach Architects Inc. This is a small section of the plans for the Integrated Instructional Facility project that will begin under the Mall this summer. The project, which will be located at the east end of the UA Mall, is estimated to take 18 months.

Engineers are puzzling over ways to minimize disruption during the construction of a freshman center under the UA Mall expected to begin in the fall.

Restrictions will begin this summer when traffic on North Cherry Avenue at East University Boulevard will be diverted while utility lines are laid, said Peter Dourlein, a senior architect for the university's Facilities Management Department and manager of the IIF project.

That will be a prelude to groundbreaking and the expected 18 months of construction necessary to build the Integrated Instructional Facility, Dourlein said.

The site for the center at the east end of the University of Arizona Mall is a mixed blessing for engineers, he said.

"It's a great site because we don't have to take out any parking lots or buildings, but it's very challenging because it's at the heart of campus," Dourlein said. "We want to minimize vehicular problems and inconvenience to bicycles and foot traffic."

A temporary road will be cut through the stretch of Mall east of Cherry Avenue and the bus station in front of the Visitor Center at Cherry Avenue and East University Boulevard will also be shifted east, Dourlein said.

Students may see a better road by construction's end if they bear with the construction and rerouting, said Michael Gottfredson, vice president for undergraduate affairs.

"We want to rework the streets with a surface and color that will be more pedestrian-friendly," Dourlein said. "This is a graceful change to this part of the Mall that will lead to more improvements one day," he said.

Though Mall activities will be shifted to other sites during construction, traditional events like Spring Fling and Homecoming can return once the building is complete, Gottfredson said

"There may be some weight limitations, but I'll learn them later," said Diane Newman, commercial and Mall activity coordinator. "I think once the dust settles, everything will go back to what it once was."

Until then, she said creative planning is being poured into efforts to relocate Mall events like Homecoming and Spring Fling.

Homecoming events housed on the eastern end of the Mall will be shifted to the area between Old Main and North Park Avenue, and Newman said Spring Fling may be held at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex, an off-campus playing field at East 15th Street and South Plumer Avenue.

The $20.3 million building is worth the price tag and temporary inconvenience during construction, Gottfredson said. With expanded tutoring and centralized advising joined in a First Year Center, the IIF is the centerpiece of efforts to target sagging student retention by keeping freshman connected and secure, he said.

"Students have told us over the years they don't know where to go or who to see," he said. "The First Year Center reduces the ambiguity and cuts through the bureaucracy."

Besides complementing the First Year Center and an Information Commons with 600 workstations and patrolling librarians who will aid students with research, the massive building will also hold technologically superior classrooms, Gottfredson said.

The new classrooms are part of a renovation project and will feature state of the art video systems, acoustics and comfort features, Gottfredson said.

"The older classrooms are badly dated," he said. "Students deserve this facility."

But students have charged that the priority of renovating or reconstructing the Memorial Student Union has been sidestepped in an effort to quickly construct the IIF.

The charges stem from a misunderstanding, Gottfredson said.

"The Student Union is a much more complex project, and it's three times as expensive," he said.

The IIF is being funded through academic bonding, and it's worth every cent, Gottfredson said.

"We made sacrifices in other parts of the university budget to afford the building, but it is a better use of funds than what the university might otherwise do with them," he said.

Contrary to some impressions that the underground facility will be a cold, dark tunnel, the facility's central courtyard will be bathed in light and the two wings of advising and tutoring centers will open toward the light, Dourlein said.

"There's a lot of light. It won't be like a basement at all. It will be almost park-like," he said.

And once construction is complete, the Mall will be restored, Dourlein said.

"That's been one of the challenges - to keep the Mall intact but also to make the building a very monumental one," he said.

The architects have met the challenge he added, and once the building is complete, students will have a clear view down the Mall to the mountains in the distance, yet upon descending into the building they will be struck by the vastness of the structure tucked underground.

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