The University of Arizona is renovating the Chemistry building, which is located in the heart of campus. The construction work has closed off one side of the University of Arizona Mall for months, and the end is not even close.
With the prospect of 130,000 people traversing the UA campus for the 2022 Tucson Festival of Books on March 12 and 13, construction is still taking place, which might make navigating around it a bit tricky. The construction started in May 2021 and it is expected to be completed in December.
Peter Dourlein, the UA’s Planning Design & Construction associate vice president, said the construction site is contained, dispensed and screened, with signs and workers directing trucks to make sure they aren’t in any way compromising safety.
“We do a lot of advanced planning to make sure the site is mapped out in a way that keeps [people] safe,” Dourlein said.
The Tucson Festival of Books attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the country who celebrate reading and literacy. Authors, vendors and community groups set up tents throughout the UA Mall to sell books and hold talks with authors.
Pedestrian traffic has been rerouted throughout the Chemistry building project, which Dourlein said will continue through year’s end.
Eric Bell, physical access consultant in the UA’s Disability Resource Center, said there was a negotiation to move the Chemistry building’s fence to open up space for the festival. By removing the fence, it creates more space for pedestrians to transit. Additionally, it would be convenient for people in wheelchairs to navigate campus.
Bell said it is necessary to have those vehicle routes of the Mall available during the festival because they are paved, flat and wide open for people to walk. Additionally, there will be curb ramps that go up in the grass area for people in wheelchairs.
“I’m really hoping that the chemistry project doesn’t impact the festival as much as maybe I think it will,” Bell said.
All construction projects on campus are self-contained as safety is the top priority of the university, said Jim Sayre, the executive director of Parking and Transportation at the UA.
Parking on campus will be free the weekend of the festival at all campus surface lots and at the Park Avenue and Highland garages. The Cherry Avenue, Sixth Street, Tyndall, South Stadium and Main Gate garages will charge $5 and anyone coming to the festival is encouraged to arrive early to avoid not only traffic delays, but also having to navigate through throngs of people that Bell said are likely with an event this large.
“People are just kind of meandering through the event looking at different tents, different attractions,” Bell said.
*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
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