A 20-year development project is set to permanently transform the streets of downtown Tempe on some of the city’s only remaining land.
Novus Innovation Corridor is a collaboration between a public and private entities: Arizona State University, the city of Tempe and Catellus Development Co. ASU owns the 355 acres of land adjacent to the university’s main campus. Novus was born out of the goal to offset the cost of athletic facilities without resorting to using student or taxpayer dollars. A 2010 Arizona statute allowing the state’s three public universities to create a University Athletics Facilities District helped address this issue. The city put out an RFP in 2014 and Catellus was tasked with changing the face of downtown over the course of over two decades.
The legislative support from the state is what sets Novus apart from universities that have tried to mimic what ASU is doing, said Charley Freericks, senior vice president of development for Catellus.
“Several have done pieces of it, but none have the legislative situation we have,” he said, pointing to situations such as Stanford University, which has a research park but is not adjacent to campus. Pepperdine University and Cal-Berkeley have also come calling for advice, but neither have the land or the funding this project has.
Novus is also one of ASU’s seven innovation zones, which the university has designated to increase access to knowledge, people and ideas. Joining other zones like ASU SkySong and the ASU Research Park, Novus will be the largest of the seven when it’s finally complete.
The ASU Seidman Research Institute projects Novus will have an economic impact of at least $1.86 billion based on its current and past development. It will also add 34,000 local jobs to the area by 2035.
Phase 1 of the project was the Marina Heights construction and Phase 2 was the redevelopment of Sun Devil Stadium. Novus is currently in the midst of Phase 3 now that Catellus is on board. Since getting involved, Catellus has opened the Hyatt House | Hyatt House hotel, ASU Mullett Arena, the ASU Walton Center for Planetary Health, the 777 Tower office building, and some parking garages needed to fit the growing city. Still to come: Rio Yards for more office space, The Piedmont, among other multifamily housing options, and Novus Place, an entertainment plaza not far from Mill Avenue. There are seven total phases on the map.
Catellus said flexibility will be key over the next 20 years as the needs of the city evolve. All told, Novus will encompass 4.5 million square feet of Class A office space, over 4,100 residents, over 1,000 hotel rooms, and over 275,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Tempe residents have been vocal about traffic concerns of late, especially regarding another potential nearby development: the Tempe Entertainment District. Freericks said traffic won’t be a concern with Novus.
“Traffic was not bad when we got here,” he said. “Traffic engineers will say that in urban areas, two or three cycles of lights are good and we’re all spoiled in Arizona with its huge roads.”
Freericks said the project’s inclusion of both jobs and housing will help balance out traffic, and Novus intends to encourage the use of the light rail or Tempe Streetcar with a strengthened downtown.
The goal of what will eventually be a “15-minute neighborhood” is to add to what Tempe is already doing.
“The goal is to complement what’s here and add creatively and competitively,” said Freericks.