Talks on Campus Plan Update Address Traffic, Faculty/Staff Housing

Talks on Campus Plan Update Address Traffic, Faculty/Staff Housing

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGillUniversity Communications
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The look of The University of Arizona campus has changed a lot in the past five years. As campus planners prepare to update the Comprehensive Campus Plan, which offers guidelines for the physical development of campus, they are reviewing what improvements have been made and what issues have emerged since the plan was originally drafted in 2003.

At a workshop designed to gather community input on how the plan should be updated, planners on Monday highlighted some of the biggest changes seen on campus over the past five years, including the development of the UA Alumni Plaza and Women's Plaza of Honor, the development of the Arizona Health Sciences Center's stormwater retention basin, the completion of the Warren Avenue Mall and the construction of numerous new buildings, built with the goal of providing the best environment for teaching, research and service to the state of Arizona.

The Campus Planning Committee hosted two open meeting discussions on Monday, one held at 1:30 p.m. to gather input from UA students, staff and faculty members, and another at 7 p.m. to collect input from campus neighbors, business owners and the Tucson community.

The committee will hold another set of workshops in April.

"We want this to be a very open process – the success of the plan depends on input we get from as many people as possible," said Ed Galda, campus planner.

An update to the plan is required every five years by the Arizona Board of Regents to ensure the structured growth of the UA campus in a way that coordinates function with form. Representatives from the architectural planning firm Ayers/Saint/Gross Architects + Planners, who were integral to the development of the original Comprehensive Campus Plan in 2003, have been retained.

In addition to identifying issues that have emerged and projects that have been completed in the past five years, the effort to update the plan also will focus on including new strategies for addressing transportation issues like traffic and pedestrian circulation, identifying potential locations for future faculty/staff housing and providing greater integration of the UA's sustainability program and initiatives.

Among the key initiatives discussed during the 1:30 p.m. meeting were the planned streetcar extension being developed by the city's Department of Transportation and faculty/staff housing.

The streetcar system development is slated to be finalized in 2011 and will connect the city's core with the UA campus through a Tucson voter-approved initiative passed in May 2006. According to the proposal, the system will cover 3.9 miles with 19 stations and seven streetcars with a capacity of 130 passengers each. Streetcars will cross to the west side of Interstate 10, connecting residents living on the west side of the highway, and anywhere close to or along the tram route, to the city center and the UA campus.

"The UA is at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting faculty when it comes to salaries – transit costs are a huge factor for faculty and students. There is also a demand for housing in more urban-like settings. There is an opportunity with the streetcar system for visionary changes and ideas," said Richard Eribes, assistant vice president for planning and development and a professor of architecture.

Roger Hartley, a member of the planning committee and UA associate professor of public administration and policy, gave an example of retail housing partnerships that have been realized. He described the renovation of the former Martin Luther King Jr. Apartments into the 96-unit One North Fifth Apartments, which combines housing and retail outlets and is located on Congress Street and Fifth Avenue.

"We must enhance things close to campus but also make connections for people to have access to entertainment and retail outlets," he said.

Charles "Corky" Poster, the steering committee chair and director of the UA's Drachman Institute, a research and public service unit of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, said that the city is in the initial stages of exploration for transit-oriented development downtown. According to Poster, the city is awaiting a proposal from a developer who is betting on intensive development downtown as a result of the expansion of Tucson's streetcar.

"The plan would have the city set aside 75 acres south of Sixth Street for housing and business development. My guess is that they would welcome a partnership with the University," Poster said.

"The notion of employer-assisted housing has been looked at in the last couple of years," he said. Combining the streetcar expansion and housing would provide people the option of giving up a car, he added.

Other ideas solicited included developing parking facilities off campus to relieve traffic congestion and using access to the new streetcar system to develop off-campus recreational areas such as tennis courts, baseball fields and parks.

On-campus improvement ideas included the use of more solar energy, improved water harvesting implementation and the need to improve the means that people use to find their way on and around campus.

Galda said feedback on the plan update can be submitted directly to him at egalda@email.arizona.edu but must be received by mid-April, as the updated final report must be submitted to the Arizona Board of Regents in May.

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