'Gateway' retail center proposed for University of Arizona corner

Upscale complex would replace old buildings, and possibly be built as public-private venture
2013-07-08T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T11:04:05Z 'Gateway' retail center proposed for University of Arizona cornerCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The University of Arizona may be adding some pizazz to a busy midtown corner that's showing its age.

Officials are considering a public-private venture to put an upscale retail-commercial complex at the northwest corner of East Speedway and North Campbell Avenue, part of a campus gateway area.

It would replace a pair of two-story block buildings that have stood there since the 1960s: the Babcock Apartments owned by the UA, and the privately owned Palm Shadows Apartments.

The corner would have "a much-improved visual appearance," if the project comes to pass, said Bob Smith, the UA's vice president for business affairs.

An added bonus: if things work out as UA hopes, "very little, if any, public funding" would be required, Smith said.

The university recently began talks with a private landowner who expressed interest in doing a joint project. Cost estimates are not available because the talks are still at an early stage.

"It would likely be at least one or two years before any of this would become a reality," Smith said.

The UA has drawn criticism from some supporters over the jumble of fast-food joints and aged buildings that ring some sections of campus.

Just south of the proposed new complex, for example, a Taco Bell borders a Wendy's, which is adjacent to the campus police headquarters.

The UA also is looking at another public-private project in the area: a student housing complex with a child-care center on a site north of East Mabel Street and east of North Park Avenue.

The site has several older UA buildings on it, including those formerly know as the Corleone Apartments.

If the new housing project goes ahead, it would be a "low-rise facility intended to transition effectively into the neighborhood," Smith said.

"The facility would be geared toward older professional and graduate students" affiliated with nearby programs in the UA's law, business, engineering and medical schools, he said.

The day-care center, to be leased by the UA and operated by the College of Education, "would meet a long-standing need for child care in the UA campus vicinity," said a recent report to the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state's public universities.

The housing project also is still at the concept stage, Smith said.

Officials "must learn more about it before proceeding more seriously," he said.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

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