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Highland complex officially opened

JUSTIN BARKER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA President Peter Likins, left, Dean of Students Melissa Vito and Regents Fred Boice and Jack Jewett cut a ribbon to officially open the new Highland dormitory Friday.
By Erin Schmidt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 22, 2003

More than 150 faculty, staff and students squeezed into the shade of a few newly planted trees on Friday for the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the new multi-million dollar Highland district.

To commemorate the grand opening of the district, located at 501 N. Highland Ave., President Peter Likins cut the yellow ribbon, which stretched across a glass encased model of the yet to be completed $39.7 million dollar project.

The district, which is located near the Student Recreation Center, will include three new residence halls, Campus Health Services, and the Disability Resource Center.

"Sooner than we realize the buildings will be done and the grass will be growing," Likins said. "This area will become a rich space where young and old can come to learn about each other and themselves."

Ranko Ruzic, an architect for AR7, the firm contracted to design the district, said his design was driven by the desire to make this area a home away from home.

"We wanted to produce high quality architecture," Ruzic said. "We wanted this area to be a small community for students."

At the beginning of the fall 2003 semester, 288 students moved into Villa del Puente, a spacious residence hall and the first of two completed phases of the project, said Erika McRae, a resident assistant at the hall and a pre-communication sophomore.

The new residence hall has been rumored to be the envy of many UA students who live in other halls, said Brian Barrat, president of Villa del Puente's hall government, and a pre-business sophomore.

The new residence hall offers students multiple study lounges with suede overstuffed sofas and leather lounge chairs. In the game room students play pool or ping-pong. A meeting room is also available with a dance floor and a grand piano.

"These rooms are utilized everyday by students," McRae said. "We actually had to limit the piano playing hours because it was being played all the time."

Barrat joked about how much attention the new residence hall was getting and how many of the students enjoy it.

"Frankly we love it," Barrat said. "Everything is new and so nice. We all think this is the best place we could possibly live."

Villa del Puente is one of three new residence halls to be built in the new Highland district, said Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life.

In the fall of 2004 more than 476 students will be moving into the residence halls, Posda San Pedro and Puebla de la Cienega, which will be identical to Villa del Puente in structure and design, Van Arsdel said.

"We are moving ahead as fast as humanly possible," Van Arsdel said.

The Highland district will not just include residence halls. Many campus services have relocated or are set to relocate upon completion of construction, Van Arsdel said.

Residence Life Administrative Offices have moved into the new district from last year's home at Babcock Inn, said Joel Hauff, associate director for administrative services.

Hauff, who offered tours before the ribbon cutting ceremony, joked that the new offices were innovatively designed with 120-degree cubicles and purple and silver chrome features.

He said the balcony, which faces the back end of the football stadium, is perfect for pre-game cookouts.

The next phase of the district, set to be completed by fall of 2004, will include a space for Campus Health Services and the Disability Resource Center.

Melissa Vito, dean of students, said that even though the district wasn't complete, it was still part of an exciting vision being realized.

She said she remembers discussing, 10-15 years ago, the need for more residence halls to accommodate a growing student population.

"It is an incredibly rewarding experience to see this 10-15 year process completed."

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