Planners considering entirely new Union

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

After years of leaks, ventilation problems and expansion and patch-up projects, the administration now says it would prefer to just tear the Student Union down and start over.

Under the current plan, the Union would be torn down and rebuilt in five phases, during five years of construction. The administration prefers this plan, which would cost between $30 million and $50 million, to a previous plan to renovate and expand the Union.

"We would prefer a new building in an ideal location, rather than just a patched up building," said interim union director Mike Low, adding that a renovation project would be nearly "no difference in price" than starting from scratch.

Plans of a three-step project involving renovating the interior of the Union and later building two additions surfaced about a year ago, said David Duffy, director of campus and facilities planning. But since then, the administration has "questioned whether or not construction of a new addition was the best long-term renovation project," and both campus planning and design committee and President Manuel T. Pacheco's cabinet both have endorsed, "in concept," the idea of abandoning that plan and starting from scratch.

The campus would be fully operational during the construction, during which existing units would be relocated as various areas are shut down.

But the president's cabinet still has "serious concerns about the length of the construction being disruptive to the campus," and is hiring a consultant to try to reduce the construction time, possibly to one year, Duffy said.

No decision has been finalized and other options, including renovating the current structure, are still being considered. Any decision will depend on "budgeting and finances," which will determine the reality of either project, Duffy said.

"No money is available and the building will have to be financed by a combination of alternative means," Low said, such as selling bonds, a public-private partnerships or a student fee.

At this point many details, including the size of the building and the number of restaurants, have not been decided and an architect has not been hired. After a decision is made about which route to take, between 18 months and two years of planning will be needed before construction would begin, Low said.

Student leaders are also giving the project a "thumbs up," as long as the Union is not shut down during the construction.

Petri Darby, a media arts senior and member of the selection committee for the new director, said "the Student Union was built in stages and I don't see why it would be a problem to rebuild it that way. It will cause some disruptions, but the Union is the main place where people eat and about the only place people can use their All Aboard cards. They will still eat there even if they hear loud noises in the background."

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