The University is collaborating with the city of Mesa to design a town square in the heart of its downtown area.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith asked ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning to design the plaza this year. Construction may begin as early as spring 2014.
“Every great downtown has a gathering place where the city can come together,” Smith said. “And if you’ve got a vision and you want to embed it … who better than students who are studying this.”
Mesa issued a $750,000 bond toward the project and allowed ASU students and faculty involved to have control over the layout and design of the future plaza, which will be located at the intersection of West Main and South Center streets.
ASU agreed to allow students to plan the plaza at no expense to the city.
Smith said ASU students helped with the layout and design of past projects in the surrounding communities and consistently presented coherent and creative ideas.
“Good things happen when you get students involved,” he said.
Aaron Kimberlin, assistant director for community engagement at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, said the student-driven plan for the town square will be created within the Place-Making in Mesa course, which meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m.
The new class of 12 graduate students is expected to work during the spring, summer and fall 2013 semesters, with each semester covering a new phase of planning.
“We’re in the exploratory phase right now,” Kimberlin said.
Students majoring in geographical sciences and urban planning were notified of the class through email, and those interested were welcomed to join the course for as many semesters as they wanted.
The second phase, in which students will outline their ideas on what to incorporate into the town square to attract the community, will begin this summer.
The third phase, beginning in fall 2013, will allow the planning students to work with design students of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to construct and present the collaborated conceptual designs for the city of Mesa.
“We can utilize our sources, our students, our faculty, in order to create a plaza, a place, a location for the city of Mesa,” Kimberlin said. “They want to utilize us for this exercise, and I think it’s great.”
Kimberlin said students will tentatively have plans and conceptual designs prepared for Smith and for hired developers by the end of the fall semester.
However, plans may not fully be completed by the end of this year, and the course could extend into spring 2014.
Graduate student Melodie Jackson said student involvement in the project will allow ASU to work with the community and create a place of interest within Mesa.
“It’s an opportunity that only comes along every once in a while, and you have to take it,” she said.
Graduate student Brandon Stocksdale said students in the class will ultimately focus on how to attract people to downtown Mesa while planning the plaza’s layout and design.
“It’s ASU being part of the community,” Stocksdale said. “In Tempe, Mill Avenue is a very popular destination for students and for the community as well, and we’ll see if we can try to do something similar to that.”
Stocksdale said the students’ future town square design will illustrate a distinct place and create a sense of community within the city.
“The big idea of place-making is creating a sense of identity,” he said.
Graduate student Joshua Matthews said projects like the planning of the Mesa plaza are beneficial to ASU students preparing to enter the professional world.
“It’s not all about sitting in a lecture hall listening to professors,” Matthews said. “Knowing that you are going to have these opportunities to go out and have real world experience is going to be a huge draw for our major, our school and for even ASU in general.”
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