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UA Gem and Mineral Museum to move to the historic Pima County Courthouse

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Gillfoto/Wikimedia | The Daily Wildcat

The Pima County Courthouse (pictured above). A lease between the UA and Pima County includes 11,960 square feet on the first floor of the courthouse for exhibit space.

The University of Arizona Gem and Mineral Museum will be moving up in the world, from the basement of the Flandrau Science Center to the historic Pima County Courthouse, after a lease between Pima County and the UA was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents on April 5.

“We’re very excited because we think we’re creating something unique in the gem and mineral word,” said Gem and Mineral Museum development manager Eric Fritz.

The lease includes 11,960 square feet on the first floor of the courthouse for exhibit space. This area will be available to the UA rent-free.

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The exhibit space will include not only gems and minerals for viewing, but also sections dedicated to unique topics such as mineral evolution and the history of mining at the UA.

Additionally, the lease includes over 8,000 square feet on the lower level of the courthouse. 4,517 square feet will be devoted to lab space and a community area. 

“We’ll actually have the mineralogy and gemology lab set up in the basement,” Fritz said. “It will also be an educational annex for UA students studying mineralogy and gemology because they’ll have access to those labs.”

The museum plans on incorporating windows into the lab area so that visitors will be able to see mineralogical research taking place in real time.

In addition, 1,647 square feet will make up Storage Area A while 1,935 square feet will become Storage Area B.

According to the terms of the lease, Pima County will charge $18 per square foot per year for the lab area and Storage Area A. Storage Unit B will be charged at $8 per square foot per year. 

The lease features an initial term of 15 years, with the option for the UA to renew for another 10 years.

Beginning in the third year of residence, rent will increase annually at the same rate of increase as the Consumer Price Index, should any change occur.

The total budget for the move and establishment of the museum is $9.65 million. The project is to be funded by gifts made to the Gem and Mineral Museum. $3 million has already been pledged. 

Should the full amount fail to be raised, then the museum will sell unneeded or redundant minerals from the collection in order to compensate for the difference in cost.

Currently, Pima County is working to restore and renovate the old courthouse in downtown Tucson in order to transform the location into the Southern Arizona Regional Visitor Center Facility.

Pima County will make improvements to the tenant area and will initially cover the cost of these renovations up to $4,000,000. The UA will reimburse the county for these costs over a period of three years. Any costs over $4,000,000 will be covered by the UA.

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The move will place the museum in the middle of downtown Tucson. Museum officials expect this new location to improve accessibility and attract more visitors. 

“Being off campus, it’s going to give visitors to this area as well as local people a chance to be immersed in the whole university experience,” Fritz said. “It’s a way to have that university exposure to people that wouldn’t normally get it.”

The lease was previously review by the Board of Regent’s Business and Finance Committee on March 22. The committee requested additional information on the lease rates and cost per square footage estimates and forwarded the item to the board for full approval. 


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