By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Organizers of the new campus in Pima County have an increasingly hard decision to make and a decreasing amount of time to decide.
The decision on where to locate the new 10,000-student liberal arts college, which is scheduled to open in fall 1996, became more difficult during the March 10 Arizona Board of Regents meeting when Mayor George Miller offered to give 44 acres of city land in the downtown area to the university for $1 per year.
The downtown site is one of three locations being considered for the new campus. Last year, the regents purchased the former IBM facility on South Rita Road to house the new campus and a University of Arizona science and technology park. And UA President Manuel Pacheco said the college will be housed, at least temporarily, in one 120,000-square-foot building of the facility.
But he said the university is open to considering the downtown site, as well as two options at the IBM facility, for the campus's permanent location. At the IBM facility, the campus could be housed in current structures or could be built on the vacant land, which totals 1,345 acres, an area more than twice the size of all land occupied by the UA.
If the mayor has his way, the Rio Nuevo area, west of Interstate 10 and south of Congress Street, would be the home of the new campus.
In his presentation to the board, Miller said the location is easily accessible by bus to the UA Main campus, the Pima College campuses and the downtown area.
The college would also have the option of "sharing" the Tucson Convention Center meeting rooms and theater and the Tucson/Pima Main Library, which are a "short walk" away, he said.
Gerrit Cormany, a member of the citizen's advisory committee that has met with Pacheco about the new campus, was also optimistic about the downtown location. He described an "interdisciplinary learning community" comprised of the UA, the new campus and the Pima campuses, all in close proximity to one another. The campus's proximity to the downtown dining, retail, recreation and cultural activities and to the 47,000 downtown-area employees will offer "numerous internship and fellowship opportunities" for campus students, he said.
Celestino Fernandez, the executive vice president and provost of the campus, said the university is "very open to considering the downtown location." The university is planning to hire an independent consultant to consider the three options "objectively," he said.
But wherever the campus is located, the decision needs to be made as soon as possible and hopefully within about 60 days, Fernandez said.
"We need to start getting our
materials out and we need to be able to let the students know where they will be studying," he said.
Although no one else has approached the university with a site proposal, Fernandez said he will consider any sites that are proposed within the next two months.
Many of the regents voiced concern about not being able to fund buildings at the downtown location, and at least one regent already has his mind set on the eastside location.
"The Board approved the IBM facility with the understanding that it is where the campus will be," said Regent Hank Amos. "We already have buildings and all the land in the world."
"If we got a better proposal (than the IBM facility) we would be foolish not to listen ... but it would have to get a little better than what it is now."
But Pacheco said all three locations have drawbacks and none should be ruled out without further consideration. He said the building set aside at the IBM facility for the campus's temporary location will only house about 1,100 students, or a tenth of the proposed capacity of the campus. Spreading into other current structures may "inhibit the growth of the science and technology park" and may be expensive to remodel buildings that "aren't designed for education."
Both building at the downtown location and on the IBM facility land would involve "expensive new construction," he said.
Community concerns, including the opportunity for "economic stimulus on the east side" and a "downtown stimulus," need to be addressed, as do the non-economic student benefits of each location, Pacheco said.
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