ASU eyes downtown Chandler for campus - East Valley Tribune: News

ASU eyes downtown Chandler for campus

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Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:18 am | Updated: 1:51 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Arizona State University considers downtown Chandler a “premium” site for a 3,000-student satellite campus because of the city’s burgeoning biotech industry, college president Michael Crow said Tuesday.

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Arizona State University considers downtown Chandler a "premium" site for a 3,000-student satellite campus because of the city's burgeoning biotech industry, college President Michael Crow said Tuesday.

However, the proposal calls for Chandler to pick up the potential construction or renovations costs of tens of millions of dollars, according to city officials.

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"ASU has said, 'If you build us a building, we will come,'" said Mayor Boyd Dunn.

Crow said the university would like to open a campus of its "Colleges@ASU" program by fall 2011.

"We want to be physically present in Chandler," Crow said at a Chandler Chamber of Commerce breakfast during which he spoke about how ASU is reconfiguring itself to produce more science and engineering graduates more rapidly.

Crow said Arizona is not producing enough graduates in the fields of technology and bioscience to meet the demand. Colleges@ASU campuses would provide a faster degree track in a high-tech facility. Each campus would offer only about five degrees and would not require electives, he said.

"You go through the program as rapidly as possible," Crow said.

Chandler is a prime choice for the campus because of the city's strong technology sector, including a new $3 billion Intel manufacturing plant, centered around the Price Road corridor, he said.

Dunn said the city does not own an existing building downtown into which ASU could move. One idea is to have the proposed campus fill the void that Chandler city government will leave when it moves into its new City Hall next year. It would entail significant remodeling, though, he said.

Chandler currently leases space on the second and third floors of a privately owned building on the southeast corner of Buffalo Street and Arizona Avenue. The new $76 million City Hall is under construction just to the south.

City Manager Mark Pentz said officials have had two or three meetings in the last six months with ASU representatives about the proposed downtown Chandler campus. He said the college has proposed a city-funded project.

"The expectation is that local government will provide the facilities," Pentz said.

Dunn said a bond issue, which would have to be approved by the voters, could be the best option to raise the money. However, it likely wouldn't go to the voters until some time after 2010 because of the ongoing economic downturn, he said.

"Tens of millions of dollars is a challenge," Dunn said. "That's my frustration. I'd like to get it done."

Crow said ASU has doubled its number of science and engineering students since 2002 to meet the demand for science and technology grads and has worked to become more "agile, nimble and flexible."

"What we've been doing the last seven years is reconfiguring our genetic code," he said.

Colleges can't be divorced from the cities in which they are situated, he said.

"We are creating for you a state-of-the-art university that's committed to you as a community," Crow told Chandler officials and business leaders.

Eileen Brill Wagner, executive director of the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, a quasi-public group that promotes and beautifies the downtown, said it's the first she's heard of the proposed campus.

"I'm so excited I can barely sit still," she said.

Crow said several other communities, including Goodyear, have approached ASU about putting Colleges@ASU campuses in their cities, as well.

Chandler officials recently announced a planned partnership with the University of Arizona in a planned biotechnology business "incubator" near the Chandler Fashion Center. Last week, the City Council voted unanimously to spend $5.7 million to put the planned Innovations Technology Incubator/Accelerator in a former Intel research and development facility at 145 S. 79th St. Renovations are expected to be done by April 2010.

The facility's purpose is to provide research space to biotech startups in areas such as software design, engineering, biosciences, nanotechnology and sustainable technologies, officials have said. The incubator would provide space to allow them to take a concept from a scientific idea to a marketable product and then find investors.

The city already has three or four possible tenants lined up, including the University of Arizona's McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, according to city officials. The college's office would assist businesses in the incubator with business plans, officials have said.

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