Plans for New ASU Campus Move Forward, Include Performing and Media Arts Progam

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The City of Mesa and Arizona State University are one step closer to bringing a new ASU campus to downtown Mesa after writing a formal intergovernmental agreement, which was presented during a May 26 special council meeting for the Mesa City Council. The agreement was unanimously approved at that meeting. 

Mesa Mayor John Giles announced plans for the new ASU campus in Mesa during his State of the City address on February 4. ASU President Michael Crow couldn't attend that event, but provided a video statement and sent ASU mascot Sparky the Sun Devil in his stead. Mesa is already home to ASU’s Polytechnic campus, and the university has other campuses in Tempe, downtown Phoenix, and Glendale.  

During remarks at the May 26 meeting, Giles described the City of Mesa and ASU partnership as "a perfect marriage for a lot of reasons." Giles said he'd spoken recently with Crow, who indicated that ASU considers the Mesa campus "a big deal." 

As currently conceived, the downtown Mesa campus would include four buildings, three of them located in a new Mesa City Center planned for an area bounded by Main Street and First Street as well as Center Street and Centennial Way. The other would be situated on Main Street, at the northern edge of the Mesa Arts Center campus. Next steps include selecting design consultants and developing a master plan, says Jeffrey McVay, manager of downtown transformation for the City of Mesa.

ASU plans to start out with four programs at the Mesa campus, including Digital and Sensory Technology, Performing and Media Arts, Early Childhood Education, and Entrepreneurial Support. Performing and Media Arts offerings would include the ASU film program, some dance performance, some music performance, and alternative media, according to Rick Naimark, associate vice president for Program Development Planning at ASU. Naimark says the campus is expected to open for the Fall of 2019.

Naimark expects the new ASU campus to activate downtown Mesa in several ways, including bringing more people to the area. In addition to the academic programs, he says, ASU will present activities such as film screenings. 

But several things have to happen before the campus becomes a reality.

Both the Mesa City Council and the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body for Arizona’s three public universities, have to sign the agreement – and the Board of Regents isn’t meeting until the second week in June. 

Also, the City of Mesa and ASU have to determine funding sources for the campus.

The Mesa City Council had previously discussed putting a measure on the November ballot, asking citizens to approve a sales tax increase that would help fund the ASU campus as part of the city’s higher education initiative, as well as provide additional funding for Public Safety in the City of Mesa. But McVay says the City Council has asked him to develop a list of additional funding options for their consideration at a future session. 

The higher education initiative also includes improvements related to existing higher education programs in Mesa, including a build-out of Benedictine University facilities, which are located just east of Mesa Arts Center. Other higher education offerings in Mesa include Wilkes University and Mesa Community College. 

Mesa Arts Center, also located in downtown Mesa, was built using a “quality of life” sales tax passed in May of 1998 – which started as a half-percent sales tax, but was reduced to half that amount after eight years.

Mesa voters passed a $70 million parks bond program in November of 2012, which will fund more than a dozen projects including the new City Center. Both the City of Mesa and ASU will be involved in developing the City Center master plan and budget.

Under the new intergovernmental agreement, The City of Mesa will retain ownership of the land, and ASU will enter into a 99-year lease. ASU will make rent payments of $100,000 per year, in addition to reimbursing the City of Mesa for the City Facilities Manager’s salary.

During the first of three phases, the City will develop approximately 185,000 square feet of ASU facilities and an approximately five-acre open public space, according to the agreement, which also notes that ASU will be responsible for bringing a minimum of 1,500 students and 100 faculty and staff during the first five years.

Phase one costs include the ASU buildings ($68.2 million to $78.9 million), Civic Plaza ($20 million to $25 million), parking ($10 million to $12 million), and off-site improvements ($4 million) – for a total of between $102.2 million and $119.9 million. Two buildings, including one located between a north-facing plaza at Mesa Arts Center and the Central Mesa Light Rail route running along Main Street, are planned for phase one. 

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