Taller buildings offer expansion alternatives

By Charles Ratliff

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA has decided that it is time to grow up constructively speaking, that is.

Buildings at the University of Arizona are growing "up" instead of "out," and the concept allowing them to do that is "shell space." Shell space is the idea that a building will be built with extra floors left unfinished, designated for completion at a later date.

"I have always believed in a simple philosophy and that's build as much roof as you can," said E. G. Sander, College of Agriculture dean. "In other words, make a structure you can easily expand."

Sander said the $18.2 million Marley Building, which the College of Agriculture has occupied for two years now, was built with the idea of "how fast was I going to need that additional shell space."

He said when the building was originally designed and constructed, he knew he would eventually need the top two floors finished and that raising money to finish a building is easier than raising the money to build it.

Richard Roberts, UA's chief budget officer, agreed.

"What we have been struggling with for some time now is to try and figure out how to find the financing to finish those two floors," he said.

"Part of the reason why we did the shell space, even though we didn't have enough money to finish it, is because the most expensive part is getting the thing constructed," Roberts said. "Then, we come in a few years later and finish the shell space at a fairly marginal cost."

Roberts said that it would not be feasible to build a building with only five floors occupied knowing that in a few years the department or university would need another two floors.

"You can't build another two floors on top of a completed building without causing a major hassle," he said.

Administrators and agriculture faculty have laid out several ideas in order to figure out how to complete the Marley Building to the satisfaction of all the parties involved, Roberts said.

"We have kicked around a lease-lease back option," Roberts said. Lease-lease back involves finding a third party interested in investing the money to complete the construction and then leasing the space back to the university.

"That's all well and good, but you still have to have a source of revenue to pay the lease, and, again, you're back to saying 'Now, where could that possibly come from?'" Roberts said.

One source the money could come from is a gift from a foundation over a period of time.

"We got very fortunate in that the Marley Foundation (a trust resulting from the estate of Kemper Marley) provided us with a grant of $6 million," Sander said. "That gift comes to the UA Foundation over a 10-year period of time."

Unlike other university shell- space projects placed under a capital plan utilizing state money, Sander said he found the funds the old fashioned way: he raised it privately.

"I just got lucky," he said.

Sander said the space in the medical school will be finished using state appropriations, as well as the space in Biosciences South.

"We're going to do our's using this gift," he said.

Roberts said the Marley gift has been one way the university can leverage financing to finish the shell space.

"A part of our problem here is recognizing that the Marley gift is coming in increments over a period of time," Roberts said. "We have to sit there looking at empty space for a fairly significant amount of time before we have enough money to do something with it."

"We're going to try and arrange a situation through the (Marley) Foundation where there will be some money we will have to borrow so that we can complete the space before the ten years is up," Sander said.

"You're always trying to balance that dichotomy of what's good financial planning against the demand of 'I've got to have that space because we've got to get underway with other things that we're about,'" Roberts said.

Joel Valdez, UA's senior vice president for business affairs, said the Marley gift has been dedicated toward the completion of the Marley Building.

"With the pledged gifts that are there," Valdez said, "I'm comfortable we can go ahead and proceed."

"I'm comfortable that the gift will come in," Valdez said. "I'm comfortable that it's a financeable project because of that gift, and I'm comfortable that if we proceed now we'll probably save a heck of a lot of inflation cost than if we wait ten years."

Roberts said that it would probably take two or three years to complete the construction of the top two floors and Sander said he could wait and work towards the completion of the building over the next two to three years.

Valdez said he is taking the final projected plan of leveraging the Marley gift against a loan to complete the construction to the Arizona Board of Regents next month and feels that it will be approved.

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