Produced by Gabriel Sandler | Multimedia reporter
In 2004, Phoenix voters agreed to pass a $223,000,000 bond for the construction of a downtown Arizona State University campus. The campus opened officially in 2006 with 3000 students, and today holds 10,000 students, making it ASU’s second largest location. ASU just opened its new downtown fitness center, and will soon break ground for the Sandra Day O’Connor Law School adjacent to the Taylor Place residence halls. This body-dense environment has joined the local community, and while the overall reviews of this expansion have been positive, some point out room for improvement.
“The original intention of building the campus downtown was to bring students closer to the community where they could do those internships,” explained Marshall Terrill, an ASU Information Specialist Director. “The idea was to pick four or five colleges that made the most sense to bring them down here.”
Terill sees the campus as a source for multiple benefits to the community. He explains that the internships, public studies, lecture opportunities and mere presence of professionals and students as mutually beneficial to the area.
Sean Sweat, president of the Thunderdome Neighborhood Association for Non-Auto Mobility, cites a few ways in which he believes ASU has not been as beneficial to the downtown community as the administration may say.
“When [students] sign up to stay in Taylor Place they’re forced into some degree of a meal plan…that really sucks a lot of potential customers away from the downtown businesses” said Sweat.
In terms of community integration, Sweat further explained that most of the facilities are directly adjacent to each other, Mercado being the primary exception. This means that the school is less organically part of downtown, as the students do not need to leave the campus to satisfy any needs.
While he did praise the person-density offered by Taylor Place, Sweat feels that an opportunity to more completely merge with the surrounding area has been missed.
Aaron Hopkins-Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome Publish appreciates the change in downtown as a result of ASU buying some of the larger dirt lots in the city, which he feels segregated the residential areas from the businesses.
“The important thing is that people are studying and getting the education they need,” Johnson said, “and if they can come over here and if they have time to get off of campus, that’s awesome.”
With the added law school, ASU will have a significant population of people in downtown between the students and staff. As the programs expand and mature, the community impact will undoubtedly increase, ideally in a way that is economically viable and conducive to community integration.