ASU is seeking students’ opinions on the $4.9 million renovation of a new campus space in downtown Phoenix’s historic U.S. Federal Post Office building.
The upcoming renovation will utilize a first-floor portion of the late 1930’s building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of the building’s historic status, many of its characteristics must stay true to their original nature.
ASU students and staff members discussed what should be done with the area at a meeting Friday with Holly Street Studio, the local architecture firm that will renovate the building.
The meeting included group discussions about students’ wants and needs, a tour of the space that will be renovated and a presentation of building blueprints by the architects.
Public policy and public service sophomore Marcus Jones, the student representative for the renovation project, said that despite the challenges of keeping the building true to its history, it will be possible to make the area functional for students’ needs.
“It needs to be to-date, but still incorporate historic concepts — (that) is what makes it the challenge, but I know it’s doable,” Jones said.
The goal for the area is to create a gathering center for students. Lockers, computers, a convenience store, a strong Wi-Fi connection and more space for student organizations were among the needs mentioned by students during a group discussion period. Students also discussed adding larger windows to open up the view to the nearby Civic Space Park.
Openness to the surrounding community and historic preservation were also prevalent topics in the meeting.
Dean of Student Affairs Georgeana Montoya mentioned the possibility of local transients using the space, especially if lockers are available, and brought up the possibility of making the area only accessible to ASU students. The building, however, would still function as a public post office.
ASU architect senior Patricia Olson mentioned dozens of “character-defining features” that legally have to be kept intact, including the four large skylights in the student area, the intricate accentuation at the entrances and the original murals, which represent a national trend of federally commissioned art during the Great Depression.
Olson said maintaining the historic accuracy of the building would contribute to students’ sense of community.
“History gives a sense of a tie to a larger social urban fabric,” Olson said. “Being in a building with this history … gives students a connection to their community.”
Jones agreed that ASU’s involvement in a historic building contributes to the goals of an urban campus.
“The historic feel sets us apart from everywhere else,” Jones said. “It does bring us that sense of community. We are the downtown community. That’s what sets us apart.”
All of the money used to renovate the building will come from a facilities fee, which has not yet been levied on students but was passed by ASASUD, ASASUD Vice President Jessica Abercrombie said.
Students are invited to attend another meeting on Friday, April 22, when the architects will present some initial concepts for the space.
Construction is roughly estimated to start October 2011 and end May 2012, although Montoya said various obstacles would likely push that deadline back to fall 2012.
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Correction: April 11
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Marcus Jones was a journalism major and that the portion of the post office that will be renovated was owned by ASU. Jones is a public policy and public service major and the building is owned by the City of Phoenix.