University of Arizona buys land downtown

The University of Arizona bought a series of buildings at the corner of Seventh and Pierce streets, including this old apartment complex. (Rebecca Spiess/DD)

A recent land purchase is drawing questions about the future of the University of Arizona’s presence downtown.

UA bought land and a series of buildings on the corner of Seventh and Pierce streets earlier this September, but it’s still unclear what the school plans to do with the newly-obtained properties. The university already has a presence downtown with its Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The land and buildings purchased are located nearby.

The buildings include theater company Space 55, what used to be the Actor’s Workhouse, and a small apartment complex.

Earlier this month, Space 55 announced they will be relocating from the space. Duane Daniels, artistic director at Space 55 believes the university has big plans for the properties.

“They have plans for this block, and we’re not included,” he said. “We were going to have to get out in a few days, but they’re letting us stay an extra month.”

Some, including Daniels, suspect the university will use the land to expand the College of Medicine Phoenix.

UA has not released any information yet on what the land will be used for or when development will begin. A recent statement read, “no decisions regarding the structures have been made at this time.”

The city of Phoenix “received no plans or permitting requests as of Friday,” according to Planning and Development official Tamra Ingersoll.

Despite no official details from the university, Daniels and others are already speculating the properties use.

“This will be a big building of some kind,” Daniels said. “I think it’s in line for the cancer center, or something for the medical campus. This whole block will be developed, I’m sure. I don’t know how soon.”

Tim Eigo, who is on the board of directors at Space 55, agrees the land will be used to expand the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in some way. He said his best guess is the properties would turn into “more of the same of what they built to the south,” referring to the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

The small apartment building next door to Space 55 is among the land UA bought. The area surrounding the building is littered with trash and is a gathering place for the homeless.

It’s currently empty except for squatters. One of them, Kenny Williams, has been living there for the last week. The house has been graffitied inside, but Williams said it is otherwise in good repair.

Kenny Williams said other people have been staying in the property as well and they would have no shelter without it.

“This is kind of my best bet at the moment,” he said.

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