ASU plans downtown Phoenix campus

December 01, 2004 |

Arizona State University, with an enrollment of 57,000, is planning a downtown Phoenix campus that will cover 10 blocks, encompassing 1.5 million square feet of academic and support space and an equal amount of student housing.

The land is now primarily vacant, according to Steven Nielsen, ASU director of university physical planning. While the area is zoned for buildings as tall as 40 stories, Nielsen says the development of 15–20 story buildings with ground-floor retail space is anticipated.

The first phase of the city's $1.3 billion light rail system, now under design and soon to be under construction, will pass through the site. This will allow travel between the downtown campus and the main campus in suburban Tempe in about 20 minutes. Nielsen says Phoenix is now the largest U.S. city without a large-scale university presence downtown.

Master plan consultant is Baltimore-based Ayres/Saint/Gross Architects + Planners. Project director Kevin King says Phoenix's auto-dependent growth, which occurred primarily after World War II, resulted in a metropolitan area that is polycentric, with no individual center achieving a critical mass. The result is that an area with a population of 3.5 million has a central business district that covers an area of only one mile by one-half mile.

A comprehensive plan is expected to be completed by next spring, with land acquisition complete by the fall of 2005. The first phase of the downtown campus is targeted to be operational by 2006. A capacity to accommodate 15,000 students is expected by 2012 or 2015.

The city plans to seek approval of a bond issue in 2006 to help finance the development. Since the plan was announced, speculation has driven up the price of land that would be included in the development.

Five architectural firms with offices in Phoenix — Architekton, Will Bruder Architects, DeBartolo Architects, SmithGroup and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects — are providing input for planning the campus.

Nielsen says ASU is looking to the private sector to design/build/manage 4,000 beds of student housing.

For the past decade, ASU has had a small downtown presence by virtue of its use of an abandoned 160,000-sf former retail center.

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