Wearing suits, safety glasses and white hard hats emblazoned with the University of Arizona logo, school President Robert C. Robbins and Gov. Doug Ducey smashed an old lab bench with sledgehammers in hand.
The pair met on the UA campus Wednesday to kick off the first renovation project under the $1 billion higher education investment bond package signed by Ducey in May.
The Veterinary Sciences and Microbiology Building 90, 1117 E. Lowell St., is more than 50 years old and is the first building to undergo renovations using money from the bond program.
The building, made of brick and concrete, has “great bones,” Robbins said. It will be gutted and refurbished, but the floor plan will remain unchanged.
The renovations include removing asbestos and replacing the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, none of which have been updated since the building’s construction. The building should be back in operation by next fall.
“We want the universities in our state to stay cutting-edge so you can … attract the finest professors and leaders and students from around the country,” Ducey said.
The governor highlighted his Arizona Teachers Academy initiative and how investing in public universities will ultimately serve the teachers who will participate in the program.
“This is where they are trained,” Ducey said. “You are supplying Arizona with a talented, capable, 21st century workforce.”
Researchers and students were moved out of the building in June to make way for the renovations, said Pam Scott, associate vice president for the UA’s external communications. The building provides office and lab space for faculty and students doing research as well as a classroom on the main floor.
The funding for this renovation project was passed in House Bill 2547, which allows for the state’s public universities to sell up to $1 billion in bonds for infrastructure improvements.
The bill also grants $27 million for the 2017-2018 school year for the first 25 repayments of the bond and will increase by 2 percent a year until the bond debt is repaid.
The UA will receive $400 million of the bond package. Half of it will be used to renovate eight research buildings and smaller deferred-maintenance issues on campus. The other half will be used to construct two new research buildings.