After nearly a year and a half of construction, College Avenue Commons became the newest addition to ASU’s Tempe campus with its dedication on Wednesday. The $54 million structure, located on the southeast corner of College Avenue and 6th Street, functions primarily as the home of the Del E. Webb School of Construction, but is largely a mixed-use facility.
College Avenue Commons is overall a fantastic addition to ASU. Its northern location will do a great deal to establish more interest and community connection in an area that is trying to establish its own identity and vibrance.
However, it is the position of the editorial board that the inclusion of a Sun Devil Welcome Center in College Avenue Commons was an ill-advised decision. Its location near the far northern edge of campus will have prospective students too far away from the buildings that will prove crucial in their Sun Devil careers, should they choose to attend.
With Tempe campus tours now starting at College Avenue Commons instead of the Student Services Building, points of pride like Gammage Auditorium will be a painstakingly long walk. The same would hold for Sun Devil Fitness Center, a vital part of most ASU students’ health; the W.P. Carey School of Business, a main attraction many top students; and the Memorial Union, a hotbed for student activity.
When prospective students are trying to discover what this New American University is all about, they should not be led to believe that College Avenue Commons is a defining feature. Most buildings more closely resemble Computing Commons than this brand new marvel of a building.
ASU has a shining history that is deeply attached to the older buildings on our campus, and by introducing interested students to a building not yet engrained in our tradition, we are doing a disservice to both them and ourselves.
It seems that ASU officials have forgone practicality and history in favor of shiny, state-of-the-art impressionability. Of course, the prospective students will be thrilled with the auditorium, exceptional architecture and cutting-edge technology. However, a student tour should provide students with an outlook on what their life may be like in attendance of the school, and College Avenue Commons has very little, if any, proximal advantages in doing so for the majority of students. A starting point for a tour should instill a sense of awe in the history and tradition of a school.
The excessive commercialization of College Avenue Commons is also concerning. Emphasizing Sun Devil Marketplace, a campus store, in the same place as the Student Welcome Center comes off as grasping and inappropriate. Prospective students should be able to appraise this university as a place to receive an excellent higher education without being bombarded by merchandise.
The relative proximity to Sun Devil Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena also seem to shift focus from the more important part of the University — academics — to the less important part — athletics.
The inclusion of a wine and coffee bar, Pitchforks and Corks, would also be a nice feature of the building — and any building for that matter — if it weren’t in the same place as students gauging their idea of the University. In that context, it comes off as bizarre and somewhat gimmicky — almost as if the University were trying too hard to be cool, especially considering our status as a dry campus.
While College Avenue Commons is, in general, an impressive addition to ASU, it is an inconvenient, history-absent, excessively commercial place for connecting with prospective students.