ASU center’s design scaled back - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

ASU center’s design scaled back

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2005 5:25 am | Updated: 8:50 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Developers of the planned ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center are scaling back the project’s signature element — "SkySong."

The series of swooping, cone-shaped shade structures originally was envisioned to hang over the central eastwest thoroughfare of the 37-acre development on the former Los Arcos Mall site.

The new version, unveiled to the city Planning Commission on Wednesday night, has SkySong flying over a single intersection of the thoroughfare. Each corner of the intersection will feature pedestrian-oriented plazas.

As recently as last week, developers said they were considering naming the eastwest thoroughfare SkySong Place or SkySong Drive.

Plans call for the architectural elements to be made of specially designed transparent mesh fabric. The peaks are to reach 60 feet tall, held aloft by masts stretching 110 feet high.

Higgins Development Partners and The Plaza Cos., the co-developers, reoriented the structures at the suggestion of the Scottsdale Design Review Board, said Higgins executive vice president Tom Samuels.

"SkySong will be even more prominent and visible and will enhance the experience as a shaded gathering space on the boulevards," he said in a prepared statement.

The Planning Commission had considered only whether SkySong meets the criteria of a "free-standing ornamental monument." That’s critical to the concept because monuments — not buildings — are permitted to exceed the area’s building height limit of 60 feet.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the design of the entire first phase of development, which features SkySong and two anchor buildings, on Dec. 13.

Councilman Bob Littlefield said he hadn’t seen SkySong’s redesign, but that it didn’t matter.

"We’ve got so much money invested in this thing, now we can’t afford to delay it 10 minutes," he said.

The city’s financial obligation is $86.5 million, which includes the cost of the land and infrastructure development, such as construction of streets, utilities, landscaping and parking structures.

The total cost of the research and retail complex is estimated at $300 million, a bill that will be shared by the city, the Arizona State University Foundation and private investors.

The developers are trying to hold to a schedule that has site preparation beginning in January with building construction starting in March.

"Here’s the point: Let’s say this thing is ugly and disappointing, which it is. So what?" Littlefield said.

"I’ll tell you what’s going to happen the night it gets to us. We’re going to have a whole bunch of council people talk about how ugly it is and what a disappointment it is and they should have come up with something better — and it’s going to pass anyway."

SkySong was designed by Henry N. Cobb of the New York architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed. His notable work includes the John Hancock Center in Boston and the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine. Cobb did not return calls Wednesday.

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