Mesa city council approves lease agreement for ASU downtown


THE MESA CITY COUNCIL RECENTLY APPROVED A LEASE AGREEMENT FOR A DOWNTOWN ASU LOCATION. JOINING US NOW FOR MORE ON WHAT OFFICIALS HOPE IS A GAME CHANGER FOR THE CITY IS MESA MAYOR JOHN GILES, AND JAKE PINHOLSTER, WHO IS LEADING THE MESA INITIATIVE FOR THIS NEW LOCATION. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US.

OFFSCREEN: THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

TED SIMONS: WHAT KIND OF FACILITY? WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: THIS IS A BRAND NEW PROGRAM THAT DOESN'T QUITE EXIST YET ANYWHERE AT ASU. IT INVOLVES -- AND JAKE IS THE BEST GUY TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU, BUT THIS IS VERY EXCITING BECAUSE THIS IS THE TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY THAT PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS TO LINE UP AND STANDING IN LINE TO GET CLASSES FOR AT ASU. IT'S AUGMENTE REALITY, ARTIFICIAL REALITY, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, 3-D DESIGN, ALL OF THE THINGS THAT MILLENNIALS ARE ANXIOUS TO GO TO SCHOOL FOR, AND THE TYPES OF THINGS THAT SPIN-OFF BUSINESSES. THE STUDENTS AND THE PROFESSORS THAT STUDY HERE WILL BE CREATING NEW BUSINESSES, AND ATTRACTING NEW BUSINESSES.

TED SIMONS: FIVE-STORY ACADEMIC BUILDING TO START?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: YES. IT’S GOOING TO BE A VERY BEAUTIFUL BUILDING. I WOULD SAY IT'S COMPARABLE TO THE BUILDING WE'RE IN NOW, TED. THE WALTER CRONKITE BUILDING. THIS WAS A BUILDING BUILT BY THE CITY OF PHOENIX. ASU CAME IN AND SPENT TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO BRING THE TECHNOLOGY TO THIS BUILDING. IT HAS BEEN A HUGE ECONOMIC WINDFALL FOR DOWNTOWN PHOENIX. AND IT’S BEEN SUCCESSFUL ACADEMICALLY AS WELL.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE DISCIPLINES THAT WILL BE OFFERED. AGAIN, GIVE US A BETTER DEFINITION. SEEMS PRETTY HIGH TECHY TO ME.

JAKE PINHOLSTER: WHAT WE'RE WORKING WITH HERE IS THIS INTERESTING INTERSECTION THAT IS EVOLVING.ESPECIALLY IN FILM AND GAME DESIGN AND ALL OF THE TECHNOLOGY THAT A LOT OF INDUSTRIES -- EVERYTHING FROM TRANSPORTATION TO HOSPITALITY TO HEALTH CARE USED TO VISUALIZE FUTURES FOR THEIR OWN DISCIPLINE. WE USE 3-D VISUALIZATION AND MODELING, ALL OF THE THINGS THAT THE MAYOR MENTIONED. AUGMENTED REALITY, VIRTUAL REALITY. THINGS THAT HELP US LOOK AT A WORLD INSIDE OF A COMPUTER AND THEN USE IT PROTOTYPE THINGS TO TAKE IT INTO THE REAL WORLD TO HAVE ECONOMIC IMPACT. SO WE'LL HAVE PEOPLE TELLING OR -- STORIES THROUGH FILM, AND INVENTING THE NEXT GREAT VIDEO GAME AND USE THIS TO SPACE TO GET ACROSS DISCIPLANARY GROUP OF FACULTY TO MODEL THE NEXT WAY OF MANAGING TRAFFIC IN DOWNTOWN MESA, OR THE NEXT, OR THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE.

TED SIMONS: ARE THESE KINDS OF THINGS BEING TAUGHT AT ASU ELSEWHERE? SOMETHING THAT WILL START OF FRESH IN THIS MESA LOCATION.

JAKE PINHOLSTER: A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH. RIGHT NOW, THESE DISCIPLINES ARE ACTUALLY REPRESENTED ALL OVER ASU. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE HOPE WILL OCCUR WITH THIS NEW BUILDING IS THAT WE'LL CREATE A CRITICAL MASS, CREATE A CENTER, A HUB OF ACTIVITY, WHERE THESE PEOPLE CAN COME TOGETHER AND DO THEIR WORK IN CREATIVE GROUPS, BUT WE'LL ALSO CREATE NEW PROGRAMS THAT WILL FILL THIS BUILDING. SOME EXISTING, SOME NEW PROGRAMS TO CREAT A REALLY GOOD CREATIVE MIX.

TED SIMONS: AND THIS IS GOING TO BE IN DOWNTOWN MESA. WHERE IN DOWNTOWN MESA?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE LIGHT RAIL STATION AT CENTER AND MAIN. IT’S A CITY OWNED SPACE. WE HAVE THE CITY PLAZA RIGHT THERE WITH A COLLECTION OF CITY OFFICE BUILDINGS BUT THIS ACTUALLY IS AN UNDERUTILIZED PARKING LOT THAT WE'RE GOING TO CONVERT INTO THIS BEAUTIFUL SPACE THAT IS GOING TO BE -- AND ALSO THERE WILL BE A CITY PLAZA WITH GRASS AND SOME AMENITIES TO SUPPORT THE CAMPUS, AND OPEN-FACING FOR THE COMMUNITY AS WELL.

TED SIMONS: NORTH OF SOUTH SIDE OF MAIN?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: ON THE NORTH SIDE. SO WE HAVE THE MESA ART CENTER, WE’RE VERY PROUD OF, AND THEN ON THE SOUTH SIDE -- ON THE NORTH SIDE ARE THE CITY OFFICE BUILDINGS AND THIS UNDERUTALIZED PARKING LOT.

TED SIMONS: 99-YEAR LEASE AT $100,000 PER YEAR. GIVE US SOME MORE DETAILS ON THIS AGREEMENT.

MAYOR JOHN GILES: YOU BET. THERE ARE CERTAIN BENCHMARKS THAT TALK ABOUT THE EXPECTATIONS ON THE PART OF THE CITY AND ASU IN TERMS OF THE NUMBER OF DEVELOPMENTS THAT WILL BE RESULTING FROM THIS, THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS, THE NUMBER OF FACULTY, ASU'S INVESTMENT, THE CITY'S INVESTMENT. THE CITY'S OBLIGATION IS TO BUILD THE BUILDING, MUCH LIKE IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX. WE WILL BE FINANCING APPROXIMATELY $60 MILLION TO DO THAT OVER THE COURSE OF 20 YEARS. THAT INVESTMENT -- WE -- THE STUDIES THAT WE HAVE DONE WILL YIELD A $9 MILLION A YEAR PRIVATE INVESTMENT FROM OUTSIDE INTO OUR DOWNTOWN, AND THE DIRECT REVENUE TO THE CITY IS GOING TO BE APPROXIMATELY $7 MILLION A YEAR. SO IT'S A GOOD INVESTMENT FOR THE CITY.

TED SIMONS: AND VERY QUICKLY AND CRITICS WERE SAYING AT $60 MILLION, BUT WHEN YOU INCLUDE DEBT, YOU ARE UP TO $100 MILLION TOTAL. WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE AND THEY ARE SAYING THAT IS TOO MUCH DEBT FOR MESA TO TAKE ON. WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THAT?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: WELL, IT'S JUST NOT TRUE. THE CITY OF MESA IS A BIG CITY. HALF A MILLION PEOPLE. WE JUST MOVED FROM 38TH TO 36TH LARGEST CITY IN THE COUNTRY, AND WE ARE A CITY AND CHEW GUM AND WALK AT THE SAME TIME. WE CAN PAY POLICE OFFICERS,WE CAN BUILD PARKS, WE CAN PROVIDE PUBLIC SAFETY, AND DO THE OTHER THINGS THAT WE NEED TO LIKE PROVIDING FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN OUR DOWNTOWN.

TED SIMONS: SMALL TOWN THINKING AMONG THE CRITICS?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: I DO. AND FRANKLY ANY FINANCIAL EXPERT WILL TELL YOU THE CITY OF MESA -- IT HAS LESS THAN THE AMOUNT OF DEBT THAT WOULD CAUSE ANY AMOUNT OF CONCERN.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS DOWNTOWN, THE STUDENTS, HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE INVOLVED? FACULTY? WHAT KIND OF NUMBERS TO START AND THE TOTAL BUILD-OUT?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: SURE. WE EXPECT -- WE HAVE COMMITTED TO 750 STUDENTS AND 40 FACULTY, I THINK OVER THE FIRST THREE YEARS, PER YEAR. I THINK WE'LL GET PAST THAT QUICKLY. WE HAVE A LOT OF DEMAND FOR THESE TYPES OF FACILITIES. WE KNOW THAT THE FILM PROGRAM THAT IS GOING INTO THIS BUILDING, AND IS ONE OF THE EXISTING PROGRAMS THAT ALREADY EXISTS IS ALREADY A SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THAT. I THINK WE'LL VERY QUICKLY HIT THAT MARK AND EXCEED IT AND BE READY TO INVEST IN A FEW PHASE AFTER THAT.

TED SIMONS: WHY IS ASU INTERESTED IN THIS LOCATION? IT COULD BE IN DOWNTOWN GLENDALE OR PHOENIX. WHY DOWNTOWN MESA?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: TWO REASONS. ASU -- PART OF IT CHARTER IS PARTICIPATE IN THE COMMUNITIES THAT IT SERVES. SO WE WANT TO BE A PART OF ALL OF THE COMMUNITIES AROUND THE VALLEY, AND WE HAVE, I THINK SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS IN MANY OF THE CITIES, AND WE'RE WORKING ON OTHERS. SO IT’S AN ISSUE OF WANTING TO BE CONNECTED TO ALL OF THE PARTS OF THE METROPOLITAN AREA. AND WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT THIS VISION OF THE DISTRICT.

TED SIMONS: YEAH, TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT. INNOVATION DISTRICT. DOES THIS START IT OFF?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: I THINK THAT'S WHAT THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE -- THE RESULTS OF THAT STUDY SAY, THAT THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO NEXT. AND FROM ASU'S PERSPECTIVE, WE HOPE RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE COMPANIES THAT MIGHT COME INTO THIS DISTRICT, WILL COME INTO THIS DISTRICT WILL HELP DRIVE OUR RESEARCH OUTCOMES, WILL HELP DRIVE STUDENT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, BY CONNECTING THEM WHILE THEY ARE STILL IN SCHOOL TO THESE TYPES OF COMPANIES. LIKE BOEING, STEEL CASE, UBER, WE WANT THE ABILITY FOR THIS BUILDING TO HELP THESE COMPANIES WHO WILL LIVE IN THIS DISTRICT TO DESIGN NEW EXPERIENCES AND PROTOTYPE NEW FUTURES FOR THEMSELVES.

TED SIMONS: SO THIS INNOVATION DISTRICT BEGINS WITH THIS.


MAYOR JOHN GILES: YES AND NO. WE ASKED THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION TO COME TO MESA. THEY HAVE WRITTEN A LOT TREATISES ON THESE AND OTHER CITIES. PHOENIX, WITH THE ADDITION OF THE ASU CAMPUS HAS BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL IN SPURRING AN INNOVATION DISTRICT, A HIGH-TEXT DISTRICT. ALL OF THE START UPS AND ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY YOU SEE DOWNTOWN. WE'RE TRYING TO MIMIC THAT MODEL THAT WEW SEE IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX. SO, YES, INNOVATION DISTRICT NEEDS THOUGH -- AND MESA HAS ALL OF THE BONES FOR THAT. WE HAVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE IN TERMS OF THE LIGHT RAIL, THE ARTS, WE NEED SOMETHING THAT IN LIKE AN ANCHOR.

TED SIMONS: AND LAST QUESTION HERE BEFORE YOU GO. IT SEEMS MESA LAGS A LITTLE BIT AS FAR AS EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT, LAGS A LITTLE BIT AS FAR AS HOUSEHOLD INCOME IS CONCERNED. DO YOU SEE THIS AS HELPING?

MAYOR JOHN GILES: ABSOLUTELY. THE REASON TO DO THIS IS TWO PRONG. NUMBER ONE IS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ALSO THE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT. MESA IS COMPARED TO TEMPE, CHANDLER, PHOENIX. THIS IS A LITTLE BIT BEHIND IN TERMS OF HIGHER EDUCATION ATTAINMENT. THIS IS GOING TO GET US WHERE WE NEED TO BE. WE’RE GONNA HAVE A BETTER WORKFORCE COMING OUT OF THIS.

TED SIMONS: AND DOORS OPEN WHEN?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: 2021.

TED SIMONS: 2021.

JAKE PINHOLSTER: FIRST STUDENTS IN AUGUST OF 2021.

TED SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. AND WE’LL KEEP AN EYE ON THIS AND BY THE WAY, WHY CAN'T I CALL THIS A CAMPUS -- THIS ISN'T A CAMPUS, IS IT?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: IT'S A RULE. TO HAVE TO HAVE A CAMPUS, YOU HAVE TO HAVE HOUSING AND FOOD AND SO ON. WE'RE NOT QUITE THERE YET.

TED SIMONS: WILL IT BE A CAMPUS IN 2021?

JAKE PINHOLSTER: IT WILL NOT, BUT MAYBE IN 2025.

TED SIMONS: THERE YOU GO. WE’RE GETTING THERE. MAYOR IT WAS GOOD TO SEE YOU.

TED SIMONS: COMING UP, A LOCAL AUTHOR IS OUT WITH HER FIRST BOOK.

The Mesa City Council recently approved a 99-year lease agreement that will bring Arizona State University to the city’s downtown. The new campus will feature film, gaming, animation and virtual reality degree programs. Mesa mayor John Giles and Jake Pinholster, who is leading the Mesa initiative for ASU, will tell us more about the upcoming campus.

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In this segment:

Mesa Mayor John Giles
Jake Pinholster, leading the Mesa Initiative for ASU

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