Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we head over to campus and speak with 3 members of the 2000 team responsible for making the Student Union Memorial Center possible

Today is March 8th my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email — interact with us on Facebook @Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with Ennio Morricone

We start today with humble acknowledgement of our importance.

The Union

Imagine the amazement of Bill Bowers, UArizona Graduate of 1927, as he discovers a bell headed for the Smelter. The bell was inscribed with USS Arizona. One of the 2 bells salvaged from the actual ship and is soon to be destroyed. Bowers was instrumental in saving the bell and getting back to his alma mater where it has rung since 1951.

It’s no surprise that the bell was a centerpiece of the present day Student Union Memorial Center. Not just because of the connection to the USS Arizona, but also its connection to the 50 years it has previously been a part of the campus.

Frank Farias, retired Executive Director of the UArizona BookStore had a vision to create a new store which would transcend the idea of a campus book store and portray the university as an industry leader in retail. At the same time the University was planning a modern student union to replace the existing building.

The two projects worked together and the result is in this amazing structure just east of Old Main. To the west you see the bookstore, to the east the student union. From above you might think you are looking at a ship docked in the harbor. From the ground you are surrounded with elements of design from the historic buildings being replaced, from the regions geology and the culture of the students.

Even the process was a revolutionary departure. Up until the Student union, it was common practice to complete the design and send it out to find the lowest bidder. Bob Smith, current VP for University Planning, introduced the design-build model by which designers and contractors work together toward the final project. Construction can actually begin before the complete design is finalized. This method has been proven as more efficient and less costly and, another, innovation from UArizona

I had a chance to take a tour of the Student Union and BookStore with Frank Farias and recorded our conversation as we walked. We were joined by 2 members of the project, Chris Kraft a project manager with the university and Joe SottoSanti, the Student Union project operations manager , now retired.


Traditions for the Future

Tom Heath: Good morning. It’s a beautiful sunny in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson.  Thank you for spending part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station.

Tom Heath: This week, we’re going to head over to campus to speak with three members of the 2000 team responsible for making the Student Union Memorial center possible. Today is March 8th. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar.

Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A mountain toUArizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on Also available on your iPhone or Android by using our very own app, you can head over to your App Store and download Downtown Radio Tucson. 

Tom Heath: And if you want to get us here on the show, our email address is or on Facebook or on Twitter and all of our past episodes. And most of our past episodes are on and check that out. We’re starting to do some cool things with that site. 

Tom Heath: We’re going to start Today’s Show with a spring forward. Rest of the country experiences daylight savings time, spring forward today. So it’s three hours difference now on the East Coast but here in Tucson, we don’t we don’t deal with that nonsense. We know that but our show has sprung for we’ve moved to 11 a.m. So hopefully you are listening. If you tuned in 11:30 you are going to miss us. 

Tom Heath: We’re part of a changing line up here on Downtown Radio. The Sunday shows are making a little bit of a tweak and we are pretty solidly in at 11 a.m. Good stuff coming down the road there that’s going to be following us but we’ll exit the show today with a little music and it’ll take you to the top of the hour. When Ty Logan is in with his show Heavy Mental, and that shows being extended to an hour. So excited for that as well. Sunday’s are starting to shape up. 

Tom Heath: We’re going to move right into our feature though because we got a big one today and want to really give it a lot of time. So imagine the amazement of Bill Bowers, University of Arizona graduate 1927, as he discovers a bell headed for the smelter for destruction and that bell was inscribed with USS Arizona. It was one of the two bells salvaged from the actual ship and it was soon to be destroyed. 

Tom Heath: Bowers was instrumental in Saving the bell and getting it back to his alma mater, where it has rung since 1951. And it’s no surprise that the Bell was the centerpiece of the present-day Student Union Memorial Center. Not just because of its connection to the USS  Arizona, but also its connection to the 50 years it had previously been a part of the campus. 

Tom Heath: Frank Farias, retired executive director the University of Arizona bookstore, had a vision to create a new store which would transcend the idea of a campus bookstore and portray the University as an industry leader in retail. At the same time, the University was planning a modern Student Union to replace the existing building. The two projects work together and the result is this amazing structure just east of Old Main. 

Tom Heath: When you’re inside of it, you look to the West you see the bookstore to the east the Student Union. From above you may think you’re looking at a ship docked in the harbor. From the ground you’re surrounded with elements of design from the historic buildings being replaced, from the Region’s geology and the culture of the students. 

Tom Heath: Even the process was revolutionary. Up until the Student Union, it was common practice to complete the design then send it out to find the lowest bidder. Bob Smith, who is the current Vice President for University Planning, introduced the design-build model by which designers and contractors work together toward the final project. Construction can begin before the complete design is finalized. This method has been proven as more efficient and less costly, another Innovation from UArizona. 

Tom Heath: I had a chance to take a tour of the Student Union in the bookstore with Frank Farias and we recorded our conversation as we walked. We were joined by two members of the project, Chris Kraft who is a project manager still at the University and Joe Soto Santi, a student union project operations manager now since retired. So we had a mic going lots of background noise. So bear with us on that but really good information and we are happy to share that with you here today.

Tom Heath: The whole thing is if we could just if there’s just kind of walk and if there’s anything in particular that you find fascinating and her that might not be as obvious at this point those out so we can get medical care here. What all the symbolism that you’re aware of its in the building or any any special history anything that you’d like to share and just kind of walk and talk and then you guys let me know. 

Tom Heath: You know, I have a general idea of designed to be Memorial to the USS Arizona and I understand there’s pieces of the ship and there’s also some iconic symbolism involved here. And there’s the Bell. 

Frank Farias: Have you seen the model of the ship in the in the in the union the large? Yes, so you just shows what people don’t know what you can see is what you see from the sky is the actual shape of what it looks like. He’s being here looking from up here above this would be the shape of the shit. Right? 

Chris Kraft: Right. Well, there’s elements of the ship all over here. Standing in front of what could be the bow. That is a point of the bow and like Joe said or or Frank. This is the turret. It doesn’t look like a perfect little ship as there are elements of it. For example, if you’re walking along this to walkway here you look here, it’s very representative of a ship at a dock every time you turn around there’s something Maritime and Memorial so it is not like a ship necessarily. We have a nice sum of oil out there that this got the exact layout of the show, but and it looks like they have this just is as the elements of other aspects of the design that incorporate like princesses. 

Joe Sotto Santi: Well, you see that was the Signed by George Davis to identify the the different layers of sediment. In other words. You look at the layout of the block its own color blocks. It emulates a certain section of Earth to receive has new but it’s area right here and beyond that. There’s another element of design that represents. Like watch the lookout tower in a vessel.

Tom Heath: Is that somebody can see her walk over there? 

Joe Sotto Santi: Yeah, we can see area that design element now. Okay, and this right here at they represent like the areas where somebody in the naval vessel would be some the lookout and then even down below this whole area and in there there’s a there’s an architectural element that you’ll see. It’s a metal plate to look like a rusty Chief and there’s some anchor chain. Not part of the Arizona original but they’re from Naval ships. 

Joe Sotto Santi: There are actual Naval vessel changes during the discussions about the construction design. We also talked about trying to incorporate a flavor of the Southwest and so the windows that you see down here, where were brought up in the discussions about replicating elements of designs like in the Santa Fe area representing the Southwest, so that’s that’s part of that, but it Also replicate some of the naval vessel like the small windows on the side.

Chris Kraft: These Bridges emulate what you might put on a ship. They don’t look like it but they’re yeah, but they emulate that so seem to sense of viewing everything out. So you have the bow of the ship disloyal you can see the concrete and then it ends here which is even more of a point well for the bell for years with abilities.

Joe Sotto Santi: What’s really interesting is that seconds and I’ll control the design element also Incorporated and aspect of like it. So the syllabus us alone, which you’ll see on the other side of that and it was so high we ended up having to cut it down because otherwise you couldn’t see the clock. 

Frank Farias: and there’s really one of my big heroes is of Bill Bowers. As this building was as being finished. Someone called me for an interview , NPR or somebody and I didn’t know whole develop busy trying to get this thing built and with Bob Smith and course and so I checked into an I heard about this guy Bill Bowers and I he was he was 99 99 years old and I call him and ask him some information and ultimately Frank and the Alumni Association. We brought him down here and he rang the bell at 99 years old and there’s a video of him doing that. But wow, what a history and I mean, I don’t want to go into it right now, but incredible love for this University. 

Frank Farias: Absolutely everything they did back to back in the 20s. He remembered it. And that is why when he was looking for a dog on the west coast, they want up in Bremerton Washington and salt through the cracks these crate USS Arizona. I mean the guy is in the middle of War. He’s got a family but he saw USS Arizona on that bell and Nothing else mattered except getting it back here. 

Tom Heath: We are in the middle of an interview we did at the U of A campus with the Student Union Bookstore and Student Union Memorial center there. We have been talking with the former director of the the bookstore Frank Farias and we have joined Chris Kraft who is still a project manager at the University and Joe Soto Santi Student Union project manager, who has since retired the way back to the conclusion of that in a moment, however I’d like to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming a Downtown Radio dot-org. 

Tom Heath: We’ll head back to the University of Arizona, finish up our interview with three members that helped bring to life the Student Union Memorial Center. Gonna talk a little bit about process and some of the unique ways that they were able to make this happen and I hope you hear it in their voices. Not just the excitement of of how this came together. But listen listen to how they talk about doing it within the elements of the campus life and really how they’re able to keep the focus on the students while they’re going through this construction. 

Tom Heath: When that the architect that won the the final bid for this would do did they have were they told up front? Hey, we want to do something along these lines or do they come back to you with this and say hey, we’ve got a great idea?

Joe Sotto Santi: We actually we went to a competitive bid process as an institution. The university had to go to and we interviewed a multitude of different organizations for corporations that were interested in the project. They came out with the best grasp of what we were trying to accomplish was sort of The recognition of the USS Arizona and the southwest and so that’s how we ended up selecting the company.

Chris Kraft: But in my opinion is an estimator, which is how I spent most of my career. We got the most value from that group. There were four ideas for this Union in the one that one had this gave us absolutely the best value and the only one with a loading dock below the plants. 

Joe Sotto Santi: We went to when we went to the competitive process. The first estimate came in at 124 million dollars and we knew that that was not going to be acceptable. So we were asked to go back to the drawing board and the second one was about 90s four billion dollars. And then at that point the Border regions basically gave approval for 60 million dollars instead. That’s it you build whatever you can with 60 million. That’s what you get and you have to raise 15 million of that. And so so we strategize in terms of how we would approach instead of saying we need this. We said we got 60 million dollars. What do you have to offer us? And that’s how we ended up selecting HDM. They gave us the biggest bang for our buck.

Frank Farias: Right there was here, you know, let’s just reverse building its bidding on quality and quantity for our bucket of money that first started the idea of constructing a new of bookstore expansion. I did a very simplistic financial projection of how we pay for that leg to substitute substantiate that and basically what we ended up doing was using that model in expanded it to represent bigger dollars at the end of the day the bookstore represent actually only used like 16 or 18 percent of the total space of the Union but end up being committed to 52 percent of the total bill and it was the bookstore’s funding Booker T was the only one that had the funding to pay for the initial architectural Design Elements thank you. Frank we’ll never forget it. 

Chris Kraft: you had asked about the original criteria wasn’t just design the architect also had to be familiar working building campuses schools. And and you know, because you have working on campus. She’s a lot different than working in the City of Tucson rules and regulations are still the same still very strict. But we’re our own City here And it’s just really hard is very little staging  area and when we building this building, we we had to pick an off-site area for the employees to be picked up and bused into the area.

Joe Sotto Santi: Both construction was to designed to be  without interruption of the of the services. The bookstore never closed one single day. And so what we ended up doing was building in two phases, so I always think about the fact when we were still not completely a finished there was an opening and we were serving the Fall, the August semester start in the parents were coming in and we had a young man say they all looked at because we had painted the clouds in the ceiling already and there was a petition that somehow got into the building and they said look Dad. This is really cool. They got clouds and the guy actually have birdseed here to was an accident.

Tom Heath: Was this the original, when it was reconstructed with all this done or have there been a additions over the years? 

Joe Sotto Santi: his is a complete structure some in inside Renovations. But this is a result describe design structure. The books are used to be at the end of this building right here. And it actually face out here and actually was a ran the front of the store was runs in line with this concrete. It had steps and now that area is all underground and you can see that the old show you was built. You’re sort of got to come down here. So we expanded quite a bid when we did this project from the original footprint that was here. 

Tom Heath: This seems like a massive project…

Chris Kraft: And we never closed like Frank said, the bookstore never closed the union never closed either, we served up until six o’clock that evening, closed our restaurants and pushed over whatever equipment that needed to be relocated in the new building in 36 hours. 

Frank Farias: You moved your kitchen operation, right? Into the new building and 36 hours. It was a Non-Stop area and what 

Joe Sotto Santi: One the things that was most rewarding at the very end of the construction is that I actually hired that Dianne Mederios and she actually did an original oil painting depicting this area, but I should relocated cactus from omean into her painting down here Incorporated. And I now see that there’s actually some Cactus is right there. 

Tom Heath: So life imitating art. Yeah this the construction actually began early 2000, 1999

Frank Farias: 1999. We were finalizing the contract and then spring of well, yeah, thank you night games week. 

Joe Sotto Santi: We took the first derivative and how I know that is that was I had open-heart surgery like three weeks later after that Open Heavens. Yeah, and I actually went back to the history in the printouts and went back to my records and 1999 when we did the first shovel. We didn’t finish till 2002 – 2003 and which is interesting because you’re involved with the Festival of Books. 

Joe Sotto Santi: They was always a discussion about having a big group event after the construction of this project and Melissa Vito and myself talk about developing that program until about five years after we had opened the the bookstore we start talking about having to launch Book Festival and we were six months into the planning for Bill and Bri diviner approached me and asked they came out so we have this wonderful idea and point it out. We just happen to be six months ahead of you and that’s how we merge. That’s how I became one of the founders for the Tucson Festival of books that all kinds of connections back to the student Union’s. 

Joe Sotto Santi: The initial investment for the books that first year was something like half a million, $500,000 with no guarantee of sales no guarantee in the audience. And so I had my fingers crossed and my reputation my job on the line and as it turned out 11 years ago, that was probably the best investment we did. 

Chris Kraft: The old Union those days was called the living room of the campus and it was the place that had all the parts of home; you had meeting rooms you had a place to eat kids slept here. They really have rooms, but they sleep on on the couches and chairs show when we were designing the new building. We had to continue that, you know, we couldn’t just have the building that didn’t have those type of spaces for students. We could never forget that this is a place for the students faculty and staff also, so that’s why you see a lot of space around This Union here as many business people have come through the years. Oh, I could use that space. I could put up a restaurant I could sell this in that but no we have to keep a certain amount of space for out while students to study in. 

Chris Kraft: So that’s what I remember about the old history of the old Union. I do remember a lot of people. I don’t know if it was his Senators that went to ecology and that they met their wives here and they take pride, you know where they met down in. Low level and lose low-level was just a place where they made hamburgers and french fries, but had a certain atmosphere it was down in the basement. 

Tom Heath: When was the original Student Union built was that it was that the original one that this replaced? 

Chris Kraft: It was added on so I’d original blown with both the one we should filthy 40 something. I got 51 and then 61 there was another addition the Galaga…concerned with one. Dining hall it burned down, we built another one and it’s got really crowded in the 40s the Navy moved in and they needed room, so we put an addition onto it and then that became crowded. 

Chris Kraft: They tore down the Navy location and kept the kitchen going while they build the new Union and they built a new you in 1930 and two parts also same thing we do so so that they can keep their original dining hall employ and build the new kitchen facilities and Fallen whatever and then tear the old dining hall down and and build the second half of the Union 1950s and then the bookstore so this leapfrogging of this always keeping this place open no matter what is tradition. 

Tom Heath: Tradition, that’s the word you hear throughout that conversation that you feel that throughout their their excitement of sharing this story. That was at the end there. That was Chris Craft. He’s project manager at the University of Arizona. We also heard from Frank Farias. He is the bookstore he’s retired, but he was in charge of the bookstore with the Union was created. And then we also had Joe Soto Santi who was the Student Union project manager at the time, and they were very very generous with their time.

Tom Heath: We weren’t able to meet with Bob Smith. He was kind of busy. He’s kind of putting all of this love that we see in the Student Union, he’s doing that with all the buildings on campus the team spoke very highly of him and him making it work here for the University of Arizona. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life along the streetcar, Downtown Radio. 99.1FM and available for streaming on Downtown 

Tom Heath: Discover the power of Downtown Radio. In fact, tell us what you think about Downtown Radio by heading over to our website Downtown Radio dot org and fill out a survey. It’s five minutes. That’s all it’s going to take and we’re asking all of our listeners to do so because this is an important survey being conducted by the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona and for taking a few minutes of your time, you’ll be entered for the chance to Win an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the station meet your favorite DJ during a live broadcast pose front of our photo op, but wall there next to our studio and even recorded top of the hour announcement. So head over to our website Downtown Radio dot org really important. 

Tom Heath: We give the students a teller left data so they can help us make this listener experience even better have to do this by midnight on Saturday, March 14th to be entered in. In the drawing kind of wanna win that myself. There’s some DJ’s I might want to pose with on the photo op wall. Okay next week. I’m going to be at the festival of book. So Mike Peel from Local First Arizona. It’s going to be on the show giving us an update on all the amazing things that are happening in that organization across the city and state. 

Tom Heath: My name is Tom Heath. You’ve been listening to Life along the streetcar. We’ve moved to a new time at 11:00 a.m. We’re excited about that following the art of easing every Sunday now, we’re 11 a.m. And in honor of that time change in honor of the time change across the country we’re going to do a little time warp. So enjoy the original soundtrack hear from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Talk to you next Sunday at 11am for more Life Along The Streetcar.

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