The City of Mesa and ASU are working to bring a new ASU campus to downtown Mesa. Mesa City Council approved the plan on Monday, June 4.
The plan includes creating a 5-story ASU facility measuring about 118,000 square feet on the northeast corner of Center and Main Streets, across from Mesa Arts Center.
The initial project budget is $63.5 million, which the city plans to raise by selling excise bonds. If the funding isn't in place by July 1, 2019, Mesa can scrap the plan.
It’s not the first time Mesa and ASU have agreed to work together.
Mesa is already home to ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Both parties struck a deal to create an ASU campus in May 2016, only to put the idea on hold after voters failed to pass a sales-tax increase that would have funded its development.
Back then, Mesa Mayor John Giles called the city’s partnership with ASU “a perfect marriage for a lot of reasons.” He supports the current plan as well, because it aligns with Mesa's goals for revitalizing downtown.
“ASU is known for innovation, and we were looking for an anchor for a new innovation district in downtown Mesa,” Giles says. “ASU will bring a new program to Mesa, and create a lot of buzz.”
The program will focus on new technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, according to Rick Naimark, ASU's associate vice president for Program Development Planning.
Expect academic and research programming in digital and sensory arts, film and media arts, and entrepreneurial support.
The previous plan also included performing arts offerings, but those aren't in the mix at this point. Instead, ASU will move its undergraduate upper division and graduate film classes from Tempe to Central Mesa.
ASU has agreed to bring at least 750 students to the Mesa campus within five years, in addition to 40 faculty and staff members. They'll provide 25 scholarships or stipends each year for Mesa residents focused on ASU programs in Mesa, and present public offerings such as film screenings and entrepreneurial events.
The changes mean ASU won't open in downtown Mesa as early as organizers originally hoped. The 2016 plan called for opening new ASU facilities in Fall 2019. But now that's been pushed back to Fall 2021.
Mesa's mayor is confident it's worth the wait.
"ASU will bring a new program that only a few other places like USC, NYU, and MIT have so far, with evolving technologies for artificial intelligence, 3D design, and the way the human brain interacts with computers," Giles says.
Giles sees practical applications for several industries that have a big Mesa presence, including aviation and medicine. "This is the latest and greatest technology." Giles says. He's also expecting ASU to attract new businesses and create more local entrepreneurs.
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It's all part of a larger city effort, which also includes creating a new City Center complex complete with 2- to 3-acres of open public space, and a facility officials are calling Mesa Innovation Studios.
They'll repurpose an existing information technology building for that facility, which will include a community-oriented space and technology lab, and house Mesa Community College programs, according to Giles.
For now, all eyes are on moving the partnership between ASU and Mesa forward.
"This will be good for ASU and good for Mesa," Giles says.