Mesa City Council advances proposal to bring second ASU campus to city
PHOENIX — The Mesa City Council approved a resolution on Monday that could soon result in another Arizona State University campus being built in the city.
Councilmembers voted 5-2 to authorize Mesa City Manager Chris Brady to “enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Board of Regents” on behalf of ASU to develop, operate and maintain educational facilities in downtown Mesa.
Lawmakers again floated the idea of bringing a second campus to Mesa last week. A similar plan was put to voters two years ago, but it did not pass.
Jeff McVay, the manager of downtown transformation, said the proposal included a “scaled-back version” of previous plans, with a building between 100,000 and 125,000 square feet.
“It would be a building that the city would design and construct and that ASU would lease from the city for approximately $100,000 per year,” McVay said.
The idea of bringing one of the nation’s largest public university to the Phoenix-area suburb did not sit well with some residents, who told lawmakers on Monday that the construction and upkeep would take away from the city’s public safety fund.
But others spoke heavily in favor of the move, arguing that it would give the city a much-needed opportunity to grow and be recognized in the national spotlight.
Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon also took to the floor to speak in favor of the proposal. Salmon, who is currently the vice president for government affairs at Arizona State University, said it would help Mesa grow and become more familiar.
Arizona State Sen. Bob Worsley, who represents Mesa, said investors were “excited” for the move after seeing how the university transformed nearby Phoenix and Tempe.
He also said that the proposal was going to “give downtown Mesa a facelift.”
“Every 50 years or so, a city is ready for its transformative moment,” Worsley said. “Mesa is ready for that moment.”
But not all lawmakers were so thrilled: Councilman Jeremy Whittaker, who ended up voting against the proposal, said with the money the city would invest in the project, it could fund 750 businesses up to $100,000 each.
“Enough is enough.”
Mesa Mayor John Giles attempted to appeal to both sides, saying that the city will continue to fund public safety and that the proposal was not an “either/or proposition.”
“I would say that this is not something that we’re doing for ASU, but that ASU is doing for our community,” Giles said, adding that the university would be responsible for all costs.
“ASU’s payment would eclipse Mesa’s,” he added.
Giles also stressed that the city would find a way to make it work without raising taxes, since a majority of residents were opposed to that move.
The university already has a sizable Mesa campus near Power and Williams Field roads.
Should it be approved, the building would take over a surface parking lot located on the northeast corner of Center and Main streets, adjacent to City Hall.