This story was updated to reflect the University South Foundation's correct title
The University of Arizona’s College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) will be moving away from its 30-year-old location behind Cochise College and down to a new building on Sierra Vista’s West End.
CAST Dean Dr. Gary Packard said the current campus was built for a different purpose.
“It was built, basically, as a night school for adult learners to come after work, with a community college degree — an associates degree — and finish their degree with the University of Arizona,” Packard told AZPM. “If you walk around our campus today, you don’t see any students and faculty walking around the campus anymore because we’re an online campus.”
The current campus sits behind Cochise College and doesn’t have a direct access point, Packard said, “The reality that we had to face was it’s a very isolated little campus … We don’t have identity within the community sitting where we are. We’re kinda hidden back here in a corner. And I wanted to pull us out more into the city’s center.”
Packard said that the new building, which is located in Sierra Vista’s West End, will serve the college’s needs better as a technology laboratory.
“We are in the process of working with an architect to do a re-design of the building to create it into modern, futuristic, science and technology, basically laboratory that’s a building,” Packard said. “There’ll be a couple of classrooms in there — because we do still have some in-person classroom teaching that you’d want to have. But the main part of the building, which will be housed, probably on the second floor … will be two things: one will be a 3,000 square-foot event space that will feature as its centerpiece a 16-foot by 19-foot video wall…
Right across the hallway from that will be the home of the Cyber Convergence Center, which is our research center for the college,” Packard continued.
The new 24,000-square-foot building cost around $3 million to purchase. Packard said that the University of Arizona Foundation purchased the property and CAST will be leasing it from the foundation for five years. After five years, the building and property will be university property.
Packard said the University of Arizona Foundation will act as a lender and the college will pay back that loan with its revenue. He said the renovation costs are estimated to be between $2-4 million on top of that, which will come from CAST revenue. The whole project, building and renovation, Packard said should be under $10 million.
In assessing their options, Packard said it would be more affordable to purchase a new building rather than build an extension on the current campus.
Packard says that he hopes to have the move and renovation completed by either fall 2024 or spring of 2025.
But amid the early phases of this move, there are several unknowns. Packard said that with the move, all administration offices in the University South Foundation-owned Groth Hall will be transferred to the new campus.
But what remains up in the air is the fate of the Discovery Gardens and Patterson Observatory, which are owned by the University South Foundation in Sierra Vista.
“The answer is: we don’t know yet,” said Packard. “We would like to keep it purposed for education purposes here in Cochise County. What exactly that looks like — whether that’s a charter school, whether that’s another campus activity partnered with the university — to be determined.”
Another thing that isn’t set in stone is what will happen to the four acres on the north side of the campus, which is owned by the university, that includes the buildings CAST occupies: building ATB-A — the faculty office building — ATB-B — the learning resource center — and ATB-C, where the cyber operations program currently resides.
“I don’t know yet,” Packard said. “Given the initial conversations I’ve had, probably a lease or sale is the most likely option for them. But not guaranteed. The university is going to try to work with us to try to find the best purpose that benefits the university and the citizens of this region.”
The other three buildings on the south side of campus are owned by the University South Foundation.
The Cooperative Extension Office and Groth Hall are owned by the University South Foundation and the University of Arizona leases the two spaces from the foundation. Patterson Observatory is also owned by the University South Foundation and it’s not a university asset, according to Packard.