Goldwater Library Proposal Prematurely Celebrated? Proponents Have Millions to Raise and Don't Own Goldwater Documents, Archives

Phoenix has been blasted by The Republic because it believes the city wrecked its chances to house a Barry Goldwater Library. There's been considerable angst over the city not jumping on a project that bears the Goldwater name.

"Phoenix's dropped ball is now in Mesa's hands, and Mesa deserves great credit for pulling off this coup," wrote the Republic on October 25.

Dropped ball? Coup?

The crazy thing is that, at this point, the library is nothing more than a gleam in the eye of The Barry and Peggy Goldwater Library and Archives, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving the legacy of Arizona's longtime senator.

It doesn't, however, own the documents that would anchor the library, and its representatives haven't had any recent conversations with the entity that does own them -- Arizona State University.

On October 24, the foundation announced it was bringing to Mesa a 40,000-square-foot library to house political documents and papers that belonged to Goldwater, and possibly other politicians.

Foundation representatives, at one point, wanted to build in Phoenix. They didn't like the terms Phoenix planners suggested, so they turned to Mesa, where officials pledged to give them land at First Avenue and MacDonald.

While they've said that Taiwan has pledged $10 million, there are tens of millions more to raise, and the fact that they don't own the papers adds another layer of complexity.

The real kicker is that -- despite bid announcements and front-page stories -- there have been no recent conversations with Arizona State University, owner of the Goldwater papers.

Had there been, it would be clear that a $30 million estimate by library proponents is woefully low.

ASU would be willing to consider turning over the Goldwater papers if there is a financially viable plan in place, not just for the $30 million building, but also for as much as a $30 million endowment to cover longterm care of the building and those famed papers, says Virgil Renzulli, a university spokesman.

That puts the project price tag closer $60 million.

"We are housing the papers, and we own them, and they're being well-cared for," Renzulli tells New Times. "We, have in the past, talked -- with the group that is now looking at Mesa -- about the possibility of a separate facility, the location has varied at times. But we're not now involved in any talks."

He said that there has to be both "money to build the building and the money to maintain it" because ASU can't maintain the collection separate from it's existing library system.

The documents are on the Fourth Floor at Hayden Library at ASU's Tempe campus.

When the Goldwater library foundation and Mesa first made their big announcement, ASU officials say they "received a notice ... but we were not consulted about it," Renzulli says.

And no one from the foundation has actually talked to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton since he took office in January.

Stanton, who has been taking some heat for not nabbing the library even though he wasn't in office when city staff and foundation members were engage in initial talks, says he first learned about the Goldwater library when he opened the newspaper.

"I've asked a lot of questions since then, but ultimately, I trust and respect the professionals that were involved in the talks. They have good judgement," he says, adding that it doesn't demean his deep respect for Goldwater or his family's efforts to preserve his legacy.

Before Stanton was elected, there were talks about establishing the library at Fifth and Fillmore streets, but a suggestion to incorporate apartments into the project offended advocates for the library.

Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, who sits on the board of directors of the Goldwater library foundation, disagrees that his city dropped the ball.

"We presented an offer that made sense for the city and the community," he says. "It just wasn't a direction the majority of the [Goldwater library] board wanted to go. And it's sad because [the site Phoenix discussed] is next to ASU and it could have been used for private student housing."

But with no money, no Goldwater archives in hand, and an unknown set of terms between Mesa and the library foundation, the announcement might be nothing more than a way to stir excitement in the community and among potential donors.

"The original members of the board are very passionate and committed," Simplot says. "It's a lifelong mission for them, and they feel strongly they will find the money."

Simplot confirms there is no existing endowment for the library.

We've left message for Mesa Mayor Scott Smith to get a better understanding of how long city officials plan to hold the land for the proposed library. We also have a call in to the Goldwater library foundation to ask about their funding sources.

Check back for updates.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo