ASU’s downtown Phoenix nursing building finishing construction

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — It may seem like a strange time to wrap up construction for a $39 million addition to ASU’s nursing school in downtown Phoenix.  Faced with university-wide budget cuts, the College of Nursing & Health Innovation plans to cut admissions by 26 percent this fall.  The Legislature is working on a fiscal 2010 budget that is likely to include more higher-education cuts.  And many expect that there will be future belt-tightening at Arizona State University.  But a critical need for space makes the new copper-covered building at 550 N. Third St. necessary, said Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the nursing school.  The building is scheduled to open in August. “We have found ways to move some exciting things forward,” Melnyk said as she watched crews paint walls and prep the building’s floors for tile and carpet.  “There are some silver linings.”

The nursing school will admit fewer students this fall, but that won’t solve the space crunch downtown, university officials say.  At the 3-year-old campus, classrooms are shared by several departments, and those rooms are near capacity, officials said.  Plus, ASU plans to add other units, such as exercise, nutrition and public health programs, to the nursing school.  The nursing school’s existing building at 500 N. Third St. doesn’t have classrooms or enough offices or places for students to gather, the dean added.

The new building sits at an intersection where many drivers enter the downtown campus.  The community wanted a building that has presence, said lead design architect Mark Kranz of SmithGroup, the firm that worked on the project. A fire staircase that faces Third and Fillmore streets will be enclosed in frosted glass and will glow at night, he said.  The building has a copper skin — a nod to Arizona’s mining roots — that won’t turn green because there is less moisture in Valley air than in other climates, Kranz said.  “It will wear, just like a penny in your pocket,” he said. Over the next few weeks, glass will go up on the outside staircase, said Peter Berg of DPR Construction Inc. Most of the work has shifted to inside the building, he said.

The project was funded by two types of city bonds.  Nearly $30 million came from a package of city bond projects approved by voters in 2006. Later, when the city and ASU decided to increase the size of the building, Phoenix covered the $10 million in additional costs using excise tax bonds.  The excise tax bonds were specially designated for construction.  They could not be used to fund jobs or programs at ASU or Phoenix. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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