Arizona Regents set to approve $200M for two new UA buildings

Two new University of Arizona research buildings totaling $200 million are among the latest projects expected to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents at the full board meeting later this month.

The 60,000-square-foot, multistory Applied Research Building is projected to cost $50 million and will be constructed to the east of the existing Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building off East Speedway and North Mountain Avenue. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2021.

The university plans to issue $50 million in system revenue bonds to fund the project, with annual debt service payments of about $3.5 million. The UA plans to use state appropriations tied to capital infrastructure to pay for half of the debt service and local matching funds for the other half, according to documents provided to the regents.

The Grand Challenges Research Building is expected to cost $150 million. Construction on the 10-story, 170,000-square-foot building will not start until 2020 and will be built just south of the Meinel Optical Sciences Building at North Cherry Avenue and the UA Mall.

The UA will issue $150 million in system revenue bonds to fund the project, with an annual debt service of about $11 million. The UA plans to use state appropriations tied to the Capital Infrastructure Fund and local matching funds to pay the debt service.

“We need research space and fabrication space as a general campus,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. He said the new space will be “centered around projects and not departments.”

The Applied Research Building “is where science and engineering theory become reality,” said Lisa Rulney, the UA’s interim senior VP for business affairs and chief financial officer, at a regents committee meeting in Phoenix this week.

Programs housed in the facility will include advanced manufacturing, mini-satellite design and testing, human performance optimization and more, according to agenda documents.

All programming to be housed at the Grand Challenges building has not been completely decided, Goldberg said, but interdisciplinary work is also expected to take place in the new building.

Research programs in astronomy, space and optical sciences, biosciences, medicine and the study of the earth’s environment are expected to be the main programs housed in the Grand Challenges building, according to regents documents.

The new facility will house public and private partnerships and provide space for new optical science faculty and new sponsored projects, according to the regents and Goldberg.

Both buildings figure prominently in President Robert Robbins’ strategic plan, Rulney said, which will outline his vision for the future of the university. The plan will be unveiled at November’s regents meeting on the UA campus.

The interdisciplinary nature of the buildings support Robbins’ initiative to prepare the UA for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which brings together digital processing, sensing, imaging, medicine, information networks, artificial intelligence and more.

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