Free of fences and construction, students this semester were finally able to gather on the Mall, toss around Frisbees, kick soccer balls and walk to their classes without navigating obstructions.
Students may be disappointed when they return to school in January to find a large chunk of the Mall once again swallowed up by fences to allow for construction of the Alumni Plaza.
Construction of the plaza will take place in the area directly south of the Administration building, and fencing will cover the adjacent section of the Mall and extend to the Modern Languages building to the east and the Student Union Memorial Center to the west.
"We'll begin over holiday break to get some things done while there is less people on campus, so we won't be as disruptive," said Melissa Dryden, senior program coordinator for Facilities Design and Construction.
Construction of the Alumni Plaza will cost an estimated $4.85 million and will begin sometime in December after graduation ceremonies.
"The biggest impact will be in the beginning, but as the semester goes on, we hope to pull the fence back," Dryden said. "The bike path between the Administration building and Modern Languages would be closed off, and bikes will be redirected."
The Facilities Design and Construction Web site describes the plaza as a "central campus plaza commemorating the
university's heritage and traditions featuring seating, shade, arid region landscaping and artistic elements celebrating the 'Arizona Experience.'"
"We'll try to get the major part of the project completed before next fall," Dryden said. "We're really trying to work the phasing to be the least disruptive as possible."
The renovated Park Student Union will reopen its doors to students on Jan. 14.
"We're going to be doing a soft opening, without a lot of marketing. Students can come in and see the changes that we've made," said Tamara DeStefanis, program director for Park Student Union.
DeStefanis said that most of PSU's food services will be open on Jan. 14. This includes Panda Express and a Cactus Grill-like cafeteria featuring a deli, burritos and chicken sandwiches. The Park Place convenience store will also reopen.
"The Bruegger's Bagels and Dominos are a little iffy, we'll know after the holidays," DeStefanis said.
Improvements to PSU include three meeting rooms, a dining area featuring lounge furniture and a big screen TV, a game room featuring coin-operated arcades and pool tables and more outdoor seating in a new courtyard.
PSU will also be the new home of Arizona Student Media, which includes KAMP radio and the Arizona Daily Wildcat.
DeStefanis has planned a PSU "block party" for Jan. 21, which will include live music and free food.
"It's kind of a thank you for everyone in the residence halls who have had to put up with our construction, although all students are invited," DeStefanis said. "It's also an opportunity to showcase our new improvements."
Other ongoing projects include the construction of three new buildings near the Arizona Health Sciences Center on the UMC campus, all within a two-block area between North Warren Avenue and East Helen Street.
Once of these buildings, Drachman Hall, will be built on what is now a Zone One parking lot south of East Mabel Street between Warren and North Martin Avenue.
The other new buildings to be built on the UMC campus are the enormous Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch and the Medical Research Buildings, at a cost of $65.652 million and $54.35 million, respectively.
Construction on the North Highland Avenue residence halls will also continue next semester, and Dryden hopes that the two residence halls that remain to be constructed on the site will be completed by the beginning of the 2004 fall semester.