By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Last week, Arizona State University and Catellus Development Corporation announced a preliminary master plan to renovate the 330-acre Athletic Facilities District northeast of the university’s Tempe campus.
An estimated 80 area residents and other interested spectators attended a June 23 open house to meet and talk with university officials and Catellus leadership to see the planned changes firsthand and have their questions answered in detail.
Catellus was chosen in October from an initial field of five firms under consideration. Currently, ASU and Catellus are operating under an exclusive negotiating agreement to work out the details on a final master development agreement (AZBEX, Oct. 10, 2014).
According to Brian Kearney, Catellus senior development manager, that agreement is expected to be finalized in the fall.
How the District Plan Works
The facilities district comprises university-owned property roughly bounded by Sun Devil Stadium, Veteran’s Way, University Drive, McClintock Road and Tempe Town Lake. Funds from the development will go toward the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium and other athletic facilities without involving tax dollars.
Under the outline of the preliminary master plan, Catellus will serve as the master developer on behalf of ASU and the district. As such, it will plan the district, and design and install the horizontal infrastructure for water, sewer, streets and similar needs to prepare development sites. The firm will also then promote spaces and projects to developers and end users according to need and market conditions.
Developers and project owners will pay ASU to create and operate spaces on the university-owned land and provide the university with in-lieu fees.
Initial Target Likely to Be Rural and University
Catellus is looking for the first opportunity to move forward with private development projects within the district even while the master development agreement is under negotiation.
“Whether it ends up moving forward before the agreement is signed or after is really just a component of timing,” Kearney said, “but both parties are interested in moving forward with a first phase of development as quickly as possible through an agreement that would focus on just that specific project.”
He adds that based on their preliminary research and planning, the NW corner of Rural and University is the most likely opportunity. The project may include multi-use development for office, multi-family and retail.
Projects to be Determined Based on Need and Opportunity
Whether the first development under the district plan starts at Rural and University or somewhere else, projects will be evaluated and undertaken based on market needs and opportunities rather than rippling out from the starting point until all the intended goals and development types are in place.
“There are a lot of factors,” Kearney said. “One is obviously market demand. Another is the ability to generate revenue to relocate athletic facilities because, obviously, some of the development sites are currently occupied by athletic facilities that have to be replaced before they can be closed. Clearly, the best combination of initial sites is sites that do not have current athletic facilities on them and that have great market potential. Clearly that corner meets that criteria, as does, we feel, the intersection of Rio Salado and Rural.” He added development at Rio Salado and Rural was a very likely development site within the plan’s first five years.
Concerns Will Be Evaluated, Planned For, As Area Changes
Even though the district master plan is to be executed and realized over the course of 20 years, it is beginning from, and will maintain, a distinctly mixed-use, urban live/work/play vision.
Since the district focuses on and is centered around ASU athletics, every aspect of the plan must be executed with the regular influx of fans and event logistics in mind.
In that a significant portion of new development will be office space, developers are planning to make optimum use of their parking and infrastructure to absorb event-based influx with a minimum of disruption to residents and tenants as the development moves ahead.
Kearney stressed the majority of need from office tenants will be in the 6 a.m.-6p.m. weekday time block and that most events will be on evenings and weekends. “As development occurs, particularly office development with respect to events, it will develop its own parking will be available to those users during the day and then available for events at night.”
In addition to making the most efficient use of parking within the district, John Creer, ASU assistant VP of real estate development, said utilizing other university-owned land outside of the district for parking could not only help relieve pressure but could provide another source of revenue.
Parking, User Needs To Be Accommodated During Transitions
Parking is not the only concern with bringing high-volumes of visitors into the area. Another item to consider is simply accommodating the number of people coming in and out without disrupting tenants and non-event-based users.
“We’re going to doing a number of things to accommodate that,” Kearney said. “We’ll be making improvements to some of the key intersections to help capacity. We’re adding new local streets into the area to try to relieve pressure off the major arterials, so if all people want or need to do is travel within the district, there’s an opportunity to do that without burdening the major streets.”
Also under the plan, South Dorsey Lane will be extended to Rio Salado to help improve traffic flow.
The entire district will be planned under a multi-modal system to give residents and visitors options in getting around. Kearney said, “This is a transit-oriented site given its accessibility to light rail. The city is planning a modern rail-based streetcar that could bring people into the district and, eventually, in a future phase is intended to go all the way down Rio Salado and across McClintock. There’s existing bus rapid transit service, local bus service, neighborhood circulators, there’s just a whole lot of transit service to this area.”
Kearney stressed the whole character of this area is live/work/play, and that in order for that vision to be successful, the partners will have to focus on providing access to transit options that meet the needs and preferences of residents and visitors, and that those options must include private vehicles, public transit, bicycling and walking paths.