UA Celebrates Its Downtown Arrival With an Open House

September 6, 2011

By Glenn McCreedy


The University of Arizona will celebrate the opening of UA Downtown in the historic Roy Place Building, located at the southeast corner of Stone Avenue and Pennington Street in Tucson. The Open House will be on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Place Building. The event will include music, hors d’oeuvres and exhibits. UA faculty, staff and students will be on hand to demonstrate their work and talk about current and upcoming UA Downtown programs, events and activities.

Wilbur T. and Wilma T. Wildcat will bring the UA spirit to the event. And the Steel Drum Band will play across the street on Jácome Plaza.

The Open House coincides with September’s 2nd Saturdays Downtown, Tucson’s monthly arts and entertainment event series. Students from the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) along with artist and instructor Bill Mackey of Worker, Inc., will present “Food, Paper, and Alcohol: an Exhibit on Downtown Tucson.” The interactive exhibit takes the initial step of looking at downtown Tucson and its relation to the local area, region, nation and globe through the lens of a few select raw materials of the urban fabric – food, paper and alcohol.

“The exhibit is about our community and a call for us to refer to our daily practice as a complicated set of relationships between sites, economies, legislation, politics, and cultural processes,” said Mackey. Initial CALA academic programs at UA Downtown will include an interdisciplinary Urban Design Studio (Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning)and the Drachman Institute, CALA’s outreach arm. Other programs, like Sustainable Real Estate Development and the interdisciplinary Sustainable City Project, will follow.

The UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) plans to operate several programs downtown as well, including the Master of Public Administration from the School of Government and Public Policy and the Master’s in Development Practice in the School of Geography and Development, which will bring students from around the world. The Master of Geographic Information Systems Technology (GIST) will be connected to UA Downtown through outreach research projects.

SBS Dean John Paul Jones III said there also are plans to move the college’s internship programs downtown. “We hope students and employers will both begin to use the downtown space as a place to meet and match up with one another,” said Jones. “Certainly we want our interns to be a part of the professional life of downtown Tucson.” The UA Downtown building itself will feature linkages and access to the University Libraries and a new retail store operated by the UA BookStores.

The UA, in collaboration with Pima County, plans to develop the Roy Place Building – home to a former Walgreens and Montgomery Ward – as a center for research, outreach and teaching.

UA Downtown will be an urban laboratory for advanced research in sustainable urban design, planning and policy. Roy Place will serve as UA Downtown’s home under a five-year lease from Pima County, with options for an additional five-year period. The UA and Pima County will collaborate on the operation and maintenance of this historic building to assure that it is well maintained and preserved.

The UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture initiated and largely drove the process of exploring ways to establish the University’s presence in Downtown Tucson and was key in forming the partnership between the UA and Pima County. That process resulted in the agreement for the use of Roy Place and the UA’s planned programs and activities downtown. “We’re creating a ‘communiversity’ in downtown Tucson to assist in urban revitalization via academic programs, faculty, staff and students,” CALA Dean Jan Cervelli said. “In partnership with county, city and other public and non-governmental agencies, the University of Arizona will serve as an incubator for talent, as a leader for addressing environmental and social needs and as a catalyst for a vibrant economy and culture in Downtown Tucson and the southern Arizona region.”

UA Downtown will serve as an interface between college and community, a “nerve center” where UA faculty members and students can connect with city officials and staff, community leaders and project developers for dialogue, vision, analysis and development of sustainable scenarios for the future. UA Downtown also will serve as a forum where academic, civic, cultural and business leaders will meet to discuss and debate multiple sustainability scenarios for the future of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

UA Downtown will partner with the county and city on the development of solutions to important urban design and land-use issues facing the Southern Arizona region. UA Downtown also will sponsor a series of exhibits, lectures and discussion sessions on issues related to sustainable urban development. UA Downtown is dedicated to furthering the broad-based inquiry into the complex environmental challenges of 21st century urbanism and devising progressive solutions to these challenges.

The Roy Place Building is named after one of Tucson’s most influential architects of the early 20th century. Built in 1929 as a Montgomery Ward department store, the building also housed Place’s architectural office where he designed several Tucson landmarks, including the iconic Pima County Courthouse. From 1919 to 1940 Place also designed more than 20 campus buildings – many on the National Register of Historic Places – including the Arizona State Museum, Centennial Hall and Steward Observatory. Said R. Brooks Jeffery, director of the UA Drachman Institute: “It is appropriate then that the building in which the University of Arizona will focus its downtown community outreach efforts was designed by and will be named for the campus’s most significant architect.”