UArizona move creates Community Center opportunity - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

UArizona move creates Community Center opportunity

July 21st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
UArizona move creates Community Center opportunity

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

The University of Arizona has been operating a “Near You” campus in Chandler for a decade. It’s mostly out of view of the public, hidden away on the second floor of the city’s Community Center.

If you’re not visiting the center, or going in and out of the city’s main public library, you might not know it’s there. And that’s one of the reasons that campus is moving to a more visible location in downtown Chandler.

“The Community Center has been so welcoming to us,” said Kimberly Haynes, UArizona’s regional manager for Maricopa County. “However, it’s not a place where the community could easily identify us. Now, they will be able to walk up to us, there should be no trouble in finding us.”

That’s only one of the reasons. The Chandler campus is also growing and has outgrown the limited space available at the Community Center, Haynes said.

In recent years, UArizona has added programs for financial degrees, information technology, professional MBA, master of legal studies, cybersecurity education, and a partnership with Chandler Unified School District and Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

UArizona plans to leave the Community Center by the end of next month and move into The Johnathan office building downtown. Chandler City Council agreed to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Board of Regents that provides UArizona $1 million to help with the move.

The money will pay for tenant improvement costs, relocation and reimbursement for rent expenditures inside The Johnathan.

The city gets discounted tuition for its employees and an assurance UArizona will participate in its Innovation Fair and host six public events a year. UArizona is expected to use 10,000 square feet of the space inside The Johnathan.

Micah Miranda, the city’s economic development director, said the school paid $2,410 per month. Over the course of a decade that works out to about $290,000.

With UArizona moving out it creates an opportunity for the Community Center, 125 E. Commonwealth Ave., to create more programs for residents.

City Recreation Manager Joe Petrella said staff looked back to how they used the space before UArizona moved in to help figure out how to move forward.

“So upstairs, we did a lot of rentals for community groups,” Petrella said. “We actually used to have our parks and rec board meetings up there. The administrative offices were up there too, before they built City Hall. So we’re just going to take a look at the space and reprogram it. So we were told to blow it out, just figure out how much we can put into these spaces, and offer some more programs to the community.”

The Community Center already offers a variety of programs, including housing a couple of indoor pickleball courts and table tennis tournaments. They also rent space to the community for private gatherings, including quinceañeras, a coming of age party for girls on their 15th birthday in Mexican culture.

They also offer karate lessons, ceramics classes with two kilns, and have a dance studio. There’s also a daycare program, which Petrella is careful not to call a preschool.

“We’re not licensed,” he said. Still, they do try to educate the children in their care and it’s an option for many families struggling to find affordable daycare.

Petrella said they are limited in some of what they can do because of the age of the building. Some areas are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, the Community Center has a stage to put on shows, but that stage does not have a ramp making it accessible to all.

John Sefton, the city’s community services director, says the City has other facilities that are ADA compliant, such as the stages at Tumbleweed Recreation Center or the Center for the Arts. So spending the money at the Community Center is not a priority now. He said the city spends more than $300,000 a year making its older buildings ADA compliant.

Tony Baumann, the City’s recreation coordinator II, said they do get requests for new programs and will be looking at those as they look to expand.

“More karate classes that we’re not offering,” he said. “We offer kind of the basics. But more variety, so to speak. And then our arts and crafts and tumbling classes, we have a high demand for those classes that we can only offer, let’s say one or two of them.”

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