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The answer is just twice — but consecutively, and for long stretches. David Null of University Archives says that the mall “was torn up the last time [President Barack] Obama was here [in September 2010],” and it was under construction during the most recent presidential campus visit in September 2012. “It’s just been torn up constantly.” Students who arrived as freshmen in 2008 and graduated in 2012 never saw the mall when it wasn’t sporting some kind of construction equipment. The main culprits are the utility tunnels beneath the mall, which are some of the oldest on campus and had outlived their useful lives. The effort to rebuild the underground systems that provide steam heat, chilled water for cooling, telecommunications, and electrical power began on Library Mall in August 2008. As the work continued into 2012, workers began to use the north portion of the mall as a staging area for the Memorial Union Reinvestment project and for a major renovation of the Wisconsin Historical Society vaults, a project that entailed rebuilding the retaining walls and balustrade surrounding the building. Phase I of the Memorial Union Reinvestment project wrapped up in summer 2014, and the final phases will begin in September 2015. This will mainly include updates to the Terrace and the beginnings of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Alumni Park project. The good news is that the new, rebuilt utility tunnels are now large enough that any future maintenance work can be carried on underground, precluding the need to tear up the mall for utility work again. But that doesn’t mean that the popular lunch spot and Frisbee field can bid farewell to drilling, dump trucks, and clouds of dust. While the university owns the section of the mall surrounding the Hagenah Fountain, the city of Madison owns the strip — now frequented by food carts — where State Street used to continue on to Park Street. In 1975, the city turned this area — bordered by the University Bookstore, St. Paul’s University Catholic Center, and the side of Memorial Library — into a pedestrian-mall continuation of Library Mall and built a concrete stage. Until recently, this area had undergone only minor sidewalk repairs. But in May 2014, construction crews rolled back in. The two-block area of State Street and Library Mall was redesigned with new landscaping, lighting, and expanded seating areas. The construction project also included a “grand staircase” that descends from Bascom Hill to join a raised pedestrian crosswalk over Park Street. Construction on Library Mall ended in October 2014. The city of Madison is now finalizing plans to install a 30-foot-tall maple-leaf sculpture on Library Mall. According to the city’s principal engineer, Chris Petykowski, the leaf will feature LED lights that change colors to match the seasons. The statue is slated for installation this summer, following final landscaping touches that should wrap up soon.

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