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West is best?: Development scarce at ASU West

Innovation zone could come to Glendale

Arizona State University’s sprawling West campus, located in Phoenix on the border with Glendale. ASU West currently does not have any development projects in the works.
Arizona State University’s sprawling West campus, located in Phoenix on the border with Glendale. ASU West currently does not have any development projects in the works.
Courtesy of Arizona State University
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Arizona State University is expanding its reach across the Valley with development projects in progress at what seems like every campus.

From ASU Downtown’s new Fusion on First housing to Tempe’s Novus Innovation Corridor to a beefed-up presence headed for Mesa, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the university seems to be at the peak of its growth.

But one campus where dirt appears to be undisturbed is ASU West, which resides at the edge of Phoenix and boasts a Glendale mailing address. Founded 35 years ago, the West Valley campus has no development projects in the works, an ASU spokesperson confirmed.

According to John P. Creer, ASU’s vice president of real estate, that might not be the case for long.

“ASU is updating its master plan to create an innovation zone to enhance West campus and engage the community,” he said.

Creer added ASU does not own much more land beyond the current campus, forcing ASU West to be more creative when it comes to enhancing the student experience. The ASU charter, which the university follows, states “development and investment is viewed through this lens of serving the community,” he said.

“As the West campus master plan is updated, it will improve amenities for West campus students, faculty and staff, provide opportunities to invite surrounding communities to the campus for work, play or living, and include open space for recreation and outdoor activities,” said Creer.

Todd Sandrin, vice provost of ASU West, said campus development is ongoing, even if nothing has been publicized about it.

“Over the past year, ASU has invested $7.3 million in 12,000 square feet, including new teaching and research laboratory space, a new art gallery and a new Future Sun Devils Welcome Center for students and families to learn more about joining the West campus community,” he said.

In recent years, the campus has seen growth through new projects and renovations alike. In 2013, ASU West received a new dining hall and fitness complex, valued at more than $52 million. In 2018, a new 24,000-square-foot classroom building was built at a cost of nearly $10 million.

Those enhancements are more than just physical, said Sandrin.

“Today, ASU West serves thousands of students in nearly 120 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs from seven ASU schools and colleges,” he said. “Each year, academic program offerings expand to meet increased workforce and marketplace demands in subjects such as applied computing, natural sciences, teacher education, criminal justice, nursing, global business and accountancy — the dedicated faculty who teach those subjects are top-caliber experts in their fields.”

Sandrin also pointed to ASU West’s close ties with the local community as one of its strengths outside of growth, including partnerships with West Valley community colleges for successful student transfers. The campus even welcomed families from the neighborhood to watch Disney’s “Cruella” for a Movies on the Lawn series this past Friday.

“West campus’s presence among suburban neighborhoods facilitates our ongoing connections to the community,” said Sandrin.

Robert Heidt, president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, said ASU’s community investment has been invaluable, particularly in attracting a skilled workforce to the West Valley.

“ASU has been a very strategic and vital partner to the chamber and many organizations in the West Valley,” he said. “We have them obviously involved in our chamber board and our policy committee, our education committee. They’re involved in probably almost every one of the business organizations, perhaps, in the West Valley. They’ve got some footprint or touch in there. So they’re very key to us in terms of their engagement. And then, naturally, they’re one of our conduits, as we work to welcome in many of these new businesses and companies to Glendale.”

While Heidt said he would welcome any and all development at ASU West as the West Valley — and the city of Glendale — continues to grow its population, he’s fine with enhancements they’ve done to improve the campus.

“I don’t view that as a negative because since I’ve been here, they’ve continually added and/or enhanced the campus, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it unique, so we’ve been fortunate,” he said. “The West campus has a very authentic, kind of natural feel, and I think that’s of value to us, because sometimes it’s overwhelming. I think they’ve used creative uses of that space, and/or where students need to go to get the best experience, if you will.”

Heidt added land previously occupied by the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which has since moved to a soon-to-be-opened building at ASU Downtown, has since been sold to Arizona Christian University, making undeveloped land scarce. Now, it’s about what he calls “responsible growth.”

“I think it’s just that responsible growth,” he said. “All development is good, but it has to come in waves and at the right time.”

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