ASU President Michael Crow handed south Scottsdale an economic lifesaver Thursday.
The creation of a $300 million world-class research center on the embattled Los Arcos Mall site will not only rejuvenate an aging neighborhood but position the Valley to become a global player in the new economy, Crow and business leaders said.
"It's important that we all remember where we are in time and space," said Crow, who was surrounded Thursday by political and economic leaders at a news conference. "We are in a growing metropolitan area that has not yet fully positioned itself for competition on a global scale."
The Arizona State University Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation would be a confluence of academia, business and the community. It would be a place where scientists could leave their labs and sip lattes with venture capitalists in a nearby cafe.
"This is truly the beginning of a new and brighter day for the city of Scottsdale," said Virginia Korte, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. "This is a giant leap that will restore our quality of life in the area."
City and university officials unveiled details of the transaction at Scottsdale City Hall:
• The ASU Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the university, would buy the 42-acre property at Scottsdale and McDowell roads from landowner Steve Ellman for $41.5 million.
• Scottsdale would then purchase the land for the same price from the foundation; it also would contribute up to $45 million for infrastructure.
• ASU and the foundation plan to forge public and private partnerships to raise the remaining funds to develop the center.
• The project would have up to 1.2 million square feet of research and office space, and some retail space.
The City Council is scheduled to formalize the deal June 28. The land must be purchased by July 30.
The center is expected to create 4,000 jobs. The spin-off redevelopment in the area, as well as direct revenue from the site, would generate a "conservative" $175 million over 30 years, city officials estimate.
"All of us, we're saying the dream team was ASU in the community," Councilwoman-elect Betty Drake said of the need for a lasting development at Scottsdale's southern gateway.
The prospect of an economic partnership between the city and ASU sprung from a report entitled "Which Way Scottsdale?" published last year by ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy. The report concluded that "Scottsdale is behind the curve in hooking into" top-tier science and technology industries. It went on to suggest a partnership with ASU as a solution.
ASU also had a need to expand its research infrastructure and approached the city about the possibility of taking over Los Arcos.
"This is so squarely within the cross-hairs of what the report recommended," said Drew Brown of DMB Associates, who helped broker the sale between the foundation and the Ellman Cos. It took 60 days of negotiating to arrive at the deal.
Los Arcos has sat empty for nearly six years while the city, Ellman and the community sparred over what to build there. Development proposals, ranging from a professional hockey arena to a tax-subsidized Wal-Mart center, have gone to three public votes.
University officials chose Los Arcos for its proximity to ASU, the city's quality of life and commitment to innovation.
"I can't emphasize enough that this is not just a real estate project," said Crow, who urged the audience to think about the broader implications of the project and not choke on the price tag.
Arizona must expand its innovation and technology capabilities, Crow said. Regional competitors such as Seattle and San Diego are thriving in the knowledge economy thanks in part to vibrant links between research universities and the private sector.
Although Crow mentioned San Diego Connect and the Stanford Research Institute as examples, this new center will be unlike any other. In addition to providing a meeting place between business and academia, the site will be "a place people want to be."
This next generation research park will not be a drab collection of concrete structures. In addition to research facilities, there will be open spaces for the community, retail and a business hotel.
Developing Scottsdale's transportation infrastructure will be vital to the success of the project. Light rail or rapid buses will be needed to link graduate students, researchers and companies with Scottsdale and campuses in downtown Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.
Officials stressed this project won't happen overnight, but its economic and social impact will eventually eclipse the years-long struggle to redevelop Los Arcos.
"This is not a short-term solution just to fill the empty real estate at that intersection," Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross said.
Many south Scottsdale residents have complained that basic neighborhood amenities have fled the area. Whether the center will be embraced by the neighborhood depends on what gets built around it.
"It's very exciting and much more interesting to have this than a hockey arena," resident Darlene Peterson said. "Hopefully we will get some retail shopping in the area."