Old main could get $13.5M facelift, house UA president

2013-10-02T00:00:00Z 2013-10-28T19:12:56Z Old main could get $13.5M facelift, house UA presidentBy Carol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The University of Arizona is seeking public help to restore a beloved campus landmark that will soon house the new office of the UA’s president.

On Tuesday, the school kicked off a campaign to help raise $13.5 million to renovate Old Main, the iconic building at the heart of campus where the UA’s first classes were held in 1891.

And President Ann Weaver Hart confirmed what has been rumored since her arrival at the UA last year: that her office, now on the seventh floor of a red brick administration tower, will be moved to Old Main once repairs are completed next year.

In a speech outside the historic building, Hart called Old Main “the heartbeat of the university.”

Relocating the president’s office will allow her to be more visible, engaged and accessible, she said.

“Instead of being locked away in the seventh floor of an administration building, I can be in the energy and activity that is a part of this great university.”

The structure is in dire need of repair, university officials say. Part of the foundation had become unstable, and its sweeping veranda was condemned as unsafe.

The renovations, which began a few months ago, will stabilize sagging sections and correct water damage and decay. Upgrades are also being made to heating, cooling and fire-suppression systems.

Hart’s spokeswoman, Andrea Smiley, said the president’s office move is supported by members of the Arizona Board of Regents, who oversee the state’s public university system.

Regents board chair Rick Myers of Tucson said he encouraged Hart to move because the Old Main site is a much better fit for what she’s trying to accomplish.

The current president’s office, built in 1966, “is separated from the campus in many ways. Unless you are going there, you would have no idea where it is,” Myers said in an email.

“The feeling was that the UA president needs to be visible and accessible to the campus community,” he said.

“I personally asked Dr. Hart to locate there to be a strong statement that the UA president is in the middle of campus, is engaged, is open to all the students and faculty and is leading UA to higher accomplishments,” Myers said.

The repair work began about six months ago and is due to be finished by next summer. The structure should be ready for occupancy by the fall 2014 semester.

Old Main is one of the oldest public buildings in the state and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The renovation work must meet federal rules to preserve the building’s original character.

Reporter Carol Ann Alaimo can be reached at 954-3158 or at calaimo@azstarnet.com.

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