Arizona State University’s budding Mesa City Center campus stood out even among a long list of noteworthy business developments in Mayor John Giles’ annual State of the City address last week.
Giles’ address was considerably less controversial than President Trump’s State of the Union address, coincidentally delivered later that same day with much more fanfare.
The mayor enthusiastically listed numerous civic advancements, especially in business.
These projects included a new AT&T call center in west Mesa, the City Creek development under construction near the Mesa Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and two large apartment complexes scheduled to break ground later this year along Main Street.
But it was the much debated and controversial ASU campus that emerged as the centerpiece, with ASU President Michael Crow sharing center stage with Giles at the Mesa Convention Center.
The event was sponsored by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and attended by more than 800 people, many of them business leaders.
“I can spend all day talking about downtown Mesa,’’ Giles said.
He quickly ticked off a project to remove facades from historic buildings downtown, City Creek adding 30 new homes and 240 apartments, The Grid apartment complex starting near a city parking garage across the street on Mesa Drive and the five-story Chicanos por la Causa project planned at the former Bailey’s Brakes property at Country Club and Main.
But it was the downtown Mesa Innovation District, which Giles helped steer through the divided City Council, that commanded a special place for the mayor.
The city recently hired a construction manager to help develop the five-story building, estimated to cost $63 million.
One of the manager’s jobs is to help design the building and determine a realistic price tag. The manager also supervises construction to ensure it is completed properly.
“It’s hard to imagine the rate of change in new business,’’ Crow said, with 80 percent of new jobs available by 2030 not even invented yet. “This will be the place with everything digital you can imagine,’’ he said. “Anything connected to digital, we will be doing in this highly creative center in Mesa.’’
Crow said after his remarks that research and innovation in Mesa will be consistent with other innovation districts in Singapore, Sydney, Australia and New York.
“These are the epicenters of digital creativity,’’ Crow said, and that the innovations will go several stages beyond the “first generation’’ systems we know today, such as the Internet and cell phones.
“We are very excited about this new facility,’’ Crow said.
Giles said Mesa also values its quality of life and is the ninth safest large city in the nation. He said voters approved the council’s priority on public safety by approving a sales tax increase that will pay for hiring 65 new police officers and 45 firefighters.
Mesa also is tackling homelessness, and the repetitive series of minor crimes associated with it, through the landmark Community Court program, which connects defendants with social services that help them address root causes such as substance abuse, Giles said.
“Mesa is a very compassionate city,’’ he said.
An AT&T spokesman said his company is currently hiring 500 people for the call center, a state-of-the-art, 70,000-square-foot building where 1.4 million calls will be handled annually from customers with multiple products and services from AT&T.
After listing all business achievements, Giles sounded a bit like a high school football coach.
“We will need your energy to get where want to be a community,” he said. “Let’s get to work.’’