Looking back a couple of years at Pierce and Seventh streets.EXPAND
Looking back a couple of years at Pierce and Seventh streets.
Lynn Trimble

Here's Why UA is Demolishing the Former Space 55 Theatre Building

Soon, another building in Roosevelt Row will be reduced to rubble. Located at 636 East Pierce Street, it's owned by the University of Arizona. Demolition is slated to begin on Wednesday, August 22.

Until recently, the one-story commercial building was home to an alternative theater company called Space 55. The company announced last August that the building had been sold, and relocated to its new space near the state fairgrounds that November.

The building is one of four properties on that block purchased by UA about a year ago, according to spokesperson Allison Otu. They include two single-family homes just west of the former Space 55 building, which are also slated for demolition.

The other property is a duplex just north of the old Space 55 building, which UA isn’t planning to tear down. “That’s listed as eligible for historic designation, so we’ve reached out to the city and state about that,” Otu says.

Mural by Tato Caraveo, T. Krank, and J.J. Horner near Pierce and Seventh streets.EXPAND
Mural by Tato Caraveo, T. Krank, and J.J. Horner near Pierce and Seventh streets.
Lynn Trimble

The Tucson-based university already had a significant downtown presence before buying these properties. They’ve also got buildings for biomedical science, health science education, a biomedical collaborative, and cancer center. They also own the former Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum near the Arizona State Capitol.

The university is still weighing what to do with the lots once the trio of buildings come down. “We don’t have official long-term plans for the space, but we’re being proactive about making room for expansion.”

Checking out Space 55 before they moved to a new site.EXPAND
Checking out Space 55 before they moved to a new site.
Lynn Trimble

Last year, university officials looked into retrofitting the buildings as offices, but discovered they weren’t habitable. “The roof is failing in the Space 55 building,” Otu says.

But there are other issues, too.

“The police encouraged demolition, because it hasn’t been possible to secure the property,” Otu says. Bioscience High School is located nearby on Pierce and Fifth streets, so safety is especially important.

For years, the 636 building has been home to several popular murals – including a trio of figures by J.J. Horner, Tyson Krank, and Tato Caraveo on the north side of the building. On the west side, there’s a mural by Yai Cecream and Ashley Macias.

Mural by Yai Cecream and Ashley Macias on the former Space 55 building.EXPAND
Mural by Yai Cecream and Ashley Macias on the former Space 55 building.
Lynn Trimble

It’s also housed various creative enterprises, including Palabra and Nostra Style House.

Moving forward, it could get used for health, engineering, or special education programs – or something entirely different. University officials are working on a strategic plan, which goes to its board for approval in November.

“We expect it will be three to five years before we activate the space,” Otu says.

In the meantime, UA representatives are making the rounds of local community meetings. It’s possible they’ll do a town hall meeting as well.

“We want to be part of this community,” Otu says. “We’ll work with the community on the process of activating these spaces.”

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