Listening to demands of potential students and parents, Grand Canyon Univ. to speed up development of amenities on new Mesa campus - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Listening to demands of potential students and parents, Grand Canyon Univ. to speed up development of amenities on new Mesa campus

; New rec. center, twice the classroom space, $35M dorm on tap

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Posted: Monday, November 11, 2013 8:00 am | Updated: 2:12 pm, Fri Nov 15, 2013.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand.

Or is it demand, then supply?

The latter might be more apropos in the case of Grand Canyon University’s planned 100-plus-acre East Valley Campus at Mesa’s Eastmark development.

GCU leadership shared its plans to speed up development on the site near Ellsworth and Warner Roads in late October, including the development of a $35 million, 1,000-bed “apartment-style” residence hall to be ready the day the campus opens in 2015.

Brian Mueller, president and CEO of the for-profit, Valley-based entity, said interest from potential students and parents alike since GCU announced the plans for the East Valley campus has been so positive, having the dorm and a host of other amenities ready on day one is only logical. This change comes after initial plans for the hall to be built a couple years after the site’s debut.

“There’s a movement throughout higher education in the country that students are wanting to stay closer to home,” Mueller said, specifically citing demographics and expected educational opportunities by many in the East Valley.

It isn’t solely about a faster timeline for the dorm, Mueller added, but rather GCU’s desire to offer a full-scale college environment for every “on campus” student it serves.

Initial plans released over the summer had the campus being a true commuter location and serving about 1,500 students with one classroom building.

Now: Mueller confirmed 2,500 students are expected from the get-go, and added that the new buildout plans will allow the Mesa site to serve as many as 5,000 students on the first day of classes.

That’s because of not only the residence hall, but new plans to develop two 80,000-square-foot classroom and lab buildings, an new student union building with multiple dining facilities, library, 65,000-square-foot recreation and multi-purpose center with convention-style seating for up to 4,500. The campus will offer club sports, intramural opportunities and a fitness center, while the facility will also be used for the Christian universities regular chapel gatherings.

Other events — including local high school graduations, could also be housed in the recreation center on a campus that’s expected to serve about 10,000 at the seven-year mark.

“The momentum is really growing in the East Valley,” Mueller said. “Thousands of Arizona high school graduates have left the state year after year, desiring to go to a private Christian university and we just don’t have one here.

“It’s just long overdue in my opinion.”

While the City of Mesa worked with a series of colleges and universities – Westminster University, Upper Iowa University, Albright College, Wilkes University and Benedictine University – to create a new higher education hub in the downtown area and neighboring Fiesta District, the southeastern portion of the city, near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, and other areas also seeing invigorated attention to higher ed.

Grand Canyon will join Arizona State University Polytechnic — and its nearly 10,000 students — and Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s Williams Campus within the vicinity of Gateway.

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences and Mesa Community College — the largest community college in Maricopa County with more than 25,000 students — also adds to the city’s education calling card.

Mueller called the region’s development “fantastic for Arizona.”

“I hope all these institutions are successful because we need a lot more robust options for Arizona families,” he said.

Mueller said adding more private educational opportunities also provides him great satisfaction.

“We have a tremendous community college system, and a tremendous state university system. But the private university system in the country has been tremendous and a really good option for a lot of students and families, and (Arizona) just hasn’t had that.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6512 or bfera@evtrib.com.

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