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'Topping out' ceremony signals ASU law school's arrival

ASU law dean and other leaders pose for group photo
June 09, 2015

Even though the construction of Arizona State University’s new law school is only halfway finished, it was reason for celebration.

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Arizona Center for Law and Society held a "topping out" ceremony June 9 at its future location on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. The ceremony commemorated the completion of the main structural work of the $129 million project and hinted at the future benefits of what the building will bring to the community.

“I hope everyone here understands what an incredible achievement this building represents,” said Doug Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “It reflects the fact that you can’t do this alone and that you need community partners to achieve great things. This is an exciting moment for all of us.”

Among the community partners at the morning ceremony at First and Polk streets included Phoenix attorney Leo Beus and his wife, Annette, who made a $10 million contribution to the building’s capital campaign.

The Arizona Center for Law and Society is being funded by the city of Phoenix, which is providing land and $12 million in construction bonds. ASU Law has set a capital campaign goal of $50 million for construction of the building and has raised $40.6 million thus far.

Other dignitaries at the ceremony included Phoenix councilmembers Bill Gates, Kate Gallego and Jim Waring; William C. Canby Jr., a sitting judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Members of the W.P. Carey Foundation, which funded the Armstrong Great Hall in the new building, also were in attendance.

After a welcome address from Sylvester, the approximately 80 attendees spent close to 20 minutes signing the final beam hoisted into place – a 49-foot-long, four-ton metal beam placed by workers for DPR Construction, who oversaw the erection of the 280,0000-square-foot building. Attached to the beam were an American flag and a pine tree, traditional markers in topping-out ceremonies for steel constructed buildings, said DPR foreman Jim Walsh.

Councilman Waring said the law school is a “fantastic project” that fits in well for the downtown area.

“It’s a massive improvement from what stood here a few years ago,” Waring said. “Given that the law school had outgrown its Tempe location and that it’s now ideally located within proximity to the city’s legal district, I’m comfortable with the idea that we all made the right decision.”

Canby said the new facility instantly makes ASU and downtown Phoenix big players in the legal arena.

“ASU and Phoenix will be able to host large national conferences and attract important scholars to the Valley,” Canby said. “It will benefit the local legal community greatly.”

The building will have 18 rooms where classes will be regularly scheduled, including one large lecture hall dedicated to university undergraduate education. Features of the law school include a high-tech courtroom and an active learning classroom.

In addition to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the retail space on the first floor consisting of the bookstore and a cafe, the Arizona Center for Law and Society will include space for two think tanks; multiple centers with cross-disciplinary focus, including the Lincoln Center; and the new ASU Alumni Law Group that will house the first teaching law firm associated with a law school.

Sylvester said the building’s location will bring about 1,000 new students to the Downtown Phoenix campus when it opens in August 2016.