Underground-Mall site top choice for frsehman facility

By Kelly Sampson

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Starting in 1998, freshman may be spending much of their time on the UA Mall ─ actually, under the Mall.

After months of administrative study and debate, President Manual Pacheco's cabinet pinpointed the underground-Mall site as the number-one choice for the new $20 million Integrated Instructional Facility, or "freshman" building. Mark Novak, a landscape architect with Campus and Facilities Planning, said the cabinet decided on the location in its meeting on May 22.

While this is the university's top choice for the facility, Novak said that it is still not a certainty. If problems arise during the design stage, the administration might revise its choice, he said.

According to university-prepared documents, the IIF building is to serve as an "academic and intellectual home base" for about 4,500 freshman beginning in 1998. Here, the university plans to implement its new first-year curriculum in a "student-friendly" environment.

Vice-President of Student Affairs Saundra Taylor said the university will try to gather the $20 million by selling bonds, which must be repaid with interest, and through fundraising efforts.

Two other plans had been considered for the IIF building. One was to build an above-ground facility on the visitor parking lot east of the Main Library. The mid

other included renovating and adding on to the front of Bear Down Gym next to the library, creating a partially-underground building that came out on to the Mall.

Now that the cabinet has eliminated those options, future freshman likely will be "based" in an underground building near the front of Main Library.

It will be at least a year, Novak said, before construction begins on the project. Though the building will probably be completely underground, the Mall above will receive a bit of a face lift as construction proceeds. Novak said that possible changes to the Mall include:

¨ Removing the roadways and redesigning them as pedestrian and cyclist paths

¨ Relocating the UA Historical Memorial Fountain, now in front of Main Library

¨ Digging up and moving the Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden, which is south of the Administration Building.

Kent Rollins, who is the executive director of the Alumni Office on campus and works closely with the Alumni Association, discussed the Alumni point of view on the IIF building.

The 54-member Alumni Board, which represents approximately 160,000 UA alumni, was generally opposed to a Mall site unless there was some assurance that the Mall will be protected, he said.

"If you build one thing under the Mall, it might lead to others." He said this is a major concern for the Alumni Association.

But some Alumni, he said, really liked the idea of going under the Mall. Despite diverging views on the specifics of this plan, one goal unites them all, he said. That goal ─preserve the Mall. Maintaining the visual corridor of the Mall from Old Main to Campbell Avenue is essential, he said.

Novak said the Mall site was chosen over the others primarily because it will allow for more instructional space in the 60,000 square foot building. It was also selected, he said, so that the space at Bear Down Gym could be retained.

An underground facility will also be less obtrusive and, since the earth will act as a natural cooler, save the university money in refrigeration costs, he said.

Novak did not say how much impact student input, which Campus and Facilities Planning actively solicited last semester, had on the decision.

The next step, he said, is to find a designer to take over the final plans. The "conceptual model" presented to students and faculty last semester for this site will be pursued, but he said many of the details must still be ironed out.

One problem designers will face with this project is how to integrate essential but potentially ugly elements, such as entrances and elevator and ventilator shafts, into the underground design so they are either hidden or visually pleasing.

Rollins said the Alumni Association is very concerned with what designers will do with all this apparatus. "Those details," he said, "could really impact the Mall."

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