Renovation planned for Downtown’s historic post office

DOWNTOWN EXPANSION: A construction zone is seen across from the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Downtown campus. ASU is planning on transforming the adjacent historic post office into a student union. (Photo by Yvonne Gonzalez)

The historic U.S. Federal Post Office near the Downtown campus will soon serve as a portal to student life.

The University plans to transform the post office into a student union for the campus, beginning with an extension of Civic Space Park, which is located next to the post office near Van Buren Street and Central Avenue.

Journalism sophomore Jessica Abercrombie, vice president of the Downtown student government and the campus’ representative of ASU’s student-run facilities fee board, said extending the park “opens the door” to student engagement.

“There’s a fence in between the post office and the park, so this way it’s really a merging of those two items and … a merging of student engagement space,” Abercrombie said.

The extension of the park will be completed during the fall semester, and it’s one of three renovation projects happening near the post office, said Patrick Panetta, assistant director of University real estate.

One of the other projects is the extension of pipes from the Cronkite building’s chilled water system to the post office, which will provide better air conditioning for the historic building. Another project will upgrade the building’s electrical transformer.

Panetta said the student union would not be completed anytime before fall 2012.

There are no plans for demolition of any part of the post office building, he said. However, the parking lot that was previously on the southeast corner of the building has been torn out and will become part of the landscaping of the park extension. After construction is complete, people will be able to park by parking meters or in nearby parking lots.

Developers will be renovating the space in the back of the building where the postal service used to do its distribution, Panetta said.

“We’ll hopefully be doing some renovations to that to make it more friendly for … people to sit out and enjoy the park space that’s going to be brought up to the building,” Panetta said.

As of now, there will be no increase in student fees to pay for the project, as the project is part of a bond fund established by the University to pay for those renovations, Panetta said.

The project will eventually include building a student recreation center through a partnership with Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA located near the campus, Abercrombie said.

More student recreation facilities are being developed on the other campuses as well.  The West and Polytechnic campuses are in the process of designing new buildings from the ground up.  There is still debate as to whether or not the Tempe campus will expand their current Student Recreation Complex or if they will build a whole new facility, Panetta said.

However, the main focus at the moment is on the expansion of Civic Space Park and the post office renovations that go along with that.

Panetta said the developers are working closely with the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office to complete the project.

“There are certain things that can’t be changed about the post office so that it does keep its historic atmosphere and its ambiance,” Abercrombie said.

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