Opinion: ASU will breathe new life into downtown Mesa

Downtown Mesa will benefit from a Sun Devil-style makeover

You might have already written off the news of a shiny new campus in downtown Mesa, if you even noticed. I mean, why wouldn’t you? ASU is always looking for ways to expand its empire in the Valley, so it’s not surprising. But stop right there – this addition is actually pretty cool, and I’ll tell you why.

According to Jacob Pinholster, dean of policy and initiatives at the Herberger Institute, the original plan on the 2016 ballot was focused on the performing arts and cultural amenity. This time around, the focus has shifted to economic development, part of that being the new building will be included in downtown Mesa’s Innovation District.

“The programs we’re putting into this building and the facilities that we’re building we expect to be a draw to technology companies in particular,” Pinholster said. “We see a lot of opportunities for collaboration for workforce development and for providing the types of engagement and amenity for folks interested in technology.”

And the programs that will find a home there really will be the perfect draw for tech companies. We should expect to see programs for subjects such as gaming, virtual reality, animation and film and media production, the last especially with high prospects to thrive.

“This is going to be one of the best academic film and media production facilities in the country, if not the best,” Pinholster said. “I know that it’s going to be an attractive place for people who are interested in doing research with virtual reality, augmented reality, who are interested in visualization technologies.”

From the looks of it, this plan has serious potential to benefit our University and downtown Mesa. Just as ASU moving into downtown Phoenix brought new life to the area, we can expect to see a similar result. All the while, these programs will be getting quite the upgrade.

“The benefits to the University are having an incredibly cutting-edge facility for our students to work in,” Pinholster said. “That is a place where we can all come together from all these different disciplines, if all goes well, to solve real-world problems and to really expand on ASU’s charter of taking responsibility or being an active participant of the communities that we serve.”

And as aforementioned, Mesa should see positive economic growth and development from this expansion. It’s a win-win.

As exciting as the plan is, it’ll be a little while before anyone sees the benefits. The building is slated to be ready for students at the beginning of the fall semester in 2021, and even then, it won’t technically be a campus.

The Arizona Board of Regents has specific requirements of what is considered a campus. Since students in programs there will have to complete their general credits elsewhere, like the Tempe Campus, for now, it’s called the downtown Mesa location. Plus, we shouldn’t expect to see any residential halls right away.

However, Pinholster said the intergovernmental agreement that was signed by the University and the city of Mesa does lay out options for additional buildings later on. With that being said, this could really just be a starting point for a bigger and brighter Sun Devil future in downtown Mesa, and it should be worth the wait.

Reach the columnist at amblodge@asu.edu or follow @AndiBlodgett on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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