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Student Union construction to begin in August

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 12, 1999
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Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

This is a model for the new Memorial Student Union, which may include more than 100,000 extra square-footage than the current union space.

UA students and faculty can expect to see the Memorial Student Union construction project underway when they return for classes in the fall.

The first phase of the plan begins in mid-August, when workers fence off the Student Union's east wing, which houses the Gallagher Theatre, said Gilbert Davidson, assistant project manager for the Student Union renovations.

The fence is a preparatory step in the wing's demolition, which will be complete around November 2000, Davidson said.

Because of the work involved in removing both the theater, reservoir and well behind the Student Union, there will be some inconveniences, he said - adding project planning staff will try to reduce the disruption to campus.

Visitors to the Student Union will no longer be able to access the building through any of Gallagher's entrances and the barrier will leave only a narrow path next to the Administration building, Davidson said. The ATMs will be moved to a nearby location - possibly in front of the Administration building - that has yet to be determined.

The fencing will extend behind the Student Union, blocking off the metered parking spaces behind the building, and up North Mountain Avenue to East Second Street, where it will cordon off the East North Campus Drive intersection, the Second Street Garage's west entrance and the metered parking lot across west of the garage.

Davidson stressed that East North Campus Drive will still be accessible through a service road located near the John W. Harshbarger Building, 1133 E. North Campus Drive, and garage's north entrance will always remain open.

"I think we need to do the best job we possibly can with minimizing the inconvenience of construction," Davidson said. "I would say that construction, appearance-wise, can be construed as a negative thing."

UA President Peter Likins said the construction could hurt recruitment efforts, but added that incoming students can interpret the project in a variety of ways.

"It has the potential of offering incoming students the promise of a richly enhanced environment or the obstacle of a construction project," Likins said. "Even after you graduate, when a university gets better, your degree is worth more."

Chris Kraft, the Student Union project manager, added that all bicycles coming from the north of campus will be redirected down East Helen Street to the North Highland and North Warren Avenue underpasses.

"The purpose will be to eliminate bike traffic on Mountain because there will be a lot of trucking going on," Kraft said. "This job is going to be highly monitored and controlled and safety is our number one issue."

The heavier labor will begin with the demolition of the Student Union's east wing sometime near Sept. 20, he said.

"That's the real big sign that's something is happening," Kraft said.

The Student Union construction is expected to be complete in July 2002.

"This is going to be just three years," Davidson said. "If we can get past three years of pretty intense construction, our campus will be so much nicer."