“Fun and nostalgic”: Pima Medical Institute repurposes old middle school into new campus

“There’s a sense of nostalgia,” Pima Medical Institute President and CEO Fred Freedman said. “There’s a sense of doing what’s right for the community by repurposing one form of education into another form of higher education.”

Tucson-based Pima Medical Institute (PMI) recently brought a vacant middle school back to life by opening its flagship campus on the old school grounds. 

Townsend Middle School had been vacant for years before PMI purchased it for $5.6 million with plans to consolidate all its Tucson campuses onto the new site. 

“Many of the people that grew up in Tucson are very familiar with the Townsend Middle School, many residents attended that middle school,” Freedman said. “When we’ve had public events there. It’s a lot of fun to hear people talk about the fact that that was their middle school before, and it doesn’t look anything like a middle school now because of all the tenant improvements that we’ve made.” 

Opened earlier this year, the new campus is organized around a 25,000 square feet courtyard with the exterior of the former school preserved, but the interior completely remodeled to give it a collegiate look and feel. 

Previously, PMI was spread out among multiple buildings throughout Tucson and had been in their main campus for nearly 30 years. The brand-new facility gives PMI new classrooms and labs that are not as dated. 

“Moving into the new facility gives us really great labs, medical labs, classrooms of good sizes… The new facility, because of the investment we made, more than accommodates our student population now, which is running about 850 students,” Freedman said.

In their more than five and a half-million-dollar purchase, PMI acquired 20 acres of land, but their facility only encompasses 75,000 square feet. PMI sold half of the parcel to Summit Development Partners so it could develop six medical office buildings. 

“We will have a whole medical…complex where it will be a one-stop-shop for people that are looking outside the hospitals to have medical needs met,” Freedman said.

According to Rick Kleiner, principal of commercial property at Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, the property’s location is great because it’s midtown and near Tucson Medical Center. 

The location [in] midtown is really extraordinary,” Kleiner said. “What the [PMI] founders had in mind with this opportunity to buy the Townsend school was a chance to kind of give back to their home community.” 

PMI was founded in Tucson in 1972 by Richard Luebke Sr. and his wife JoAnn. According to PMI, the institute was their way of making their dream of providing students with quality medical education a reality. 

The school provides students with the “in-demand, hands-on education employers expect” in order to help them thrive in the medical world. PMI said the new Townsend campus “cements the legacy” of the founder and further illustrates the school’s commitment to community, students and staff. 

It’s nice that we’re able to establish our self and our place in higher education in what was formerly another facility of education,” Freedman said. “It’s kind of fun and nostalgic, but it also creates a level of interest in the community that I haven’t seen before.” 

The campus is located at 2121 N. Craycroft Road, Building 1 Tucson, Arizona 85712. For more information, click here

Photo courtesy of Pima Medical Institute. 

Emily Richardson

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