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New chem building breaks ground

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
President Peter Likins, left, Mark Smith and Joaquin Ruiz shovel sand yesterday during the groundbreaking ceremony at the Koffler building. Although construction has already begun for the new chemistry building, this was the formal kickoff.
By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 24, 2004
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After nearly two decades of planning for a new facility, many in the chemistry department and UA community feel an enormous sense of relief as ground has been broken for the new chemistry sciences building.

The new addition to the Old Chemistry Building will allow for cohesion with all of the chemistry sciences departments to one site, said Mark Smith, chemistry department head.

President Peter Likins, who spoke yesterday at the groundbreaking ceremony outside of the Koffler Building, said it took an enormous amount of patience with physical and financial planning to plan for an extension on the building.

Likins said faculty desperately needs the added research lab space, which is the focus of the new facility.

"I know I'm not the only one to feel an enormous sense of relief at the breaking of ground at this building," Likins said.

"After nearly two decades of planning, this project is becoming a reality," Smith said. "This will help foster new ideas, new activities and new directions for the department."

Smith said students will be able to do better scientific research with the addition of the new building.

"We are fully committed to using research to substantially enrich the undergraduate experience of the next generation of chemistry majors at UA," he said.

Students who attended yesterday's ceremony agreed.

"It's a great benefit for the university," said John Kanady, a physiological sciences junior. "A new research facility will help further our studies because the (current) chemistry building is certainly outdated."

Likins said it has taken the resolve of the state legislature to help UA find ways to help finance for the long term and invest in research to make the addition possible.

Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science, compared the arduous process of attaining a new chemistry facility to a birth of a baby.

"The gestation of this building has been about 15 years," Ruiz said. "And in fact, giving birth to this building has been like giving birth to an adolescent."

The original plan when Ruiz became dean five years ago was to build a new facility that cost $15 million. The building now approximately costs $50 million, Ruiz said.

"In a short time the building has exploded in price, reflecting of course the real cost of doing science today," Ruiz said.

Doss Mabe, an architect from the Zimmer-Gunsul-Frasca Partnership, a company helping build the new chemistry addition, said everyone will be proud of the success of the building once it's completed.

"You're getting a building which is at the cutting edge in terms of supporting scientific research that can last for 50 to 100 years and really support those programs in the long term," Mabe said.

Mabe said there is no greater working environment than the UA.

"In our experience there is no greater client for an architect in the world than the University of Arizona," he said.

Likins said not all recognition and success of this project should go to the UA, but rather the state who helped fund it.

Likins said in order for a university to be first class, it must make choices and balance its resources to what it thinks is truly important. Chemistry is one of these areas, he said.

"We must make sure that chemistry is one of our great strengths at this university," Likins said. "This building as a priority to the university, is a statement of that commitment, that we do understand the centrality of chemistry as a discipline to the future of the UA."

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