The Arizona State University Foundation has taken a giant leap toward building the ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation, choosing a development team to design and construct the major research facility.
Foundation officials picked Higgins Development Partners, based in Chicago, over two other national development teams. Higgins’ team includes the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, founded by world renowned architect I.M. Pei.
The foundation, which made the selection late last week, will begin negotiations with Higgins soon on a contract expected to cost ASU’s fund-raising arm between $250 million to $300 million over 10 years to design and build the center, said Steve Evans, a foundation director.
Those negotiations are scheduled to be completed within 60 days.
"Higgins (and) Plaza are an excellent team that brings together local, national and international experience to the innovation center," Evans said.
Peoria-based Plaza Cos. will serve as co-developer under Higgins. Architectural duties will be shared by Pei Cobb Freed in New York and DMJM Design in Phoenix. Sundt Construction is scheduled to be the contractor and CB Richard Ellis will market the project.
The research center, a joint project between Scottsdale and the university foundation, attracted some of the nation’s most recognized architects and developers.
"It’s quite simply the goals that have been set forward by ASU," said George H. Miller, a principal architect with Pei Cobb Freed. "They want to be on the leading edge of investigation and important issues that are going to be with us for a long, long time in the future."
The team’s conceptual designs set glass structures beside open tree-filled public spaces, shaded by large, saillike canopies. The canopy fabric would generate some power for the center, Steven Lichtenberger, DMJM vice president, said at a showing of the finalists Feb. 15.
The 1,400 foot-long public space cutting across Higgins’ conceptual design, would be lined with retail shops, and is meant to resemble La Rambla in Barcelona, Lichtenberger said. "We really want to engage the public space. That’s what this design is all about."
The team’s other architectural firm, Pei Cobb Freed, has done work that others may already be imitating. Its architects have designed an addition of the Louvre in Paris, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong.
Higgins has a history of working on government and private joint projects, said Tom Samuels, executive vice president with the development firm.
"This is a very significant project and is significant to a lot of people . . . in the area. It’s exactly the kind of project that we do," Samuels said.
Design work is to begin soon, Evans said, so the foundation can secure a zoning change and initial plan approval from the Scottsdale City Council in June.
University and city officials have said construction of the center’s first phase should begin by year’s end.
The city is charged with creating a site plan for the research center on 42 acres at the southeast corner of Scottsdale and McDowell roads, where the Los Arcos Mall once stood. Scottsdale has hired Urban Design Associates, a Pittsburgh-based site planning firm, and created a residents’ committee to decide how roads and walkways should run through the center and where buildings should go.
The foundation will choose who builds it, and what university programs and research projects are located there.
Foundation officials had set Monday as a deadline to choose a master builder. To date, ASU and the city have kept on schedule — a timeline both admit will be challenging.
"Large projects, which are ambitious and have a lot of stake holders, are complicated," Samuels said. They have institutional partners with their own decision-making processes, which are difficult to manage.
However, the project is moving quickly and has attracted national attention, said Wellington "Duke" Reiter, dean of the ASU College of Architecture and Environmental Design.
The long-maligned Los Arcos site, a vacant lot for six years as various interests fought over its redevelopment, might become something special. Or a glorified office complex, some critics contend.
"We certainly hope not. You can do an office park anywhere," Reiter
said. "It’s for real."