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ASU to Move Thunderbird Downtown

Jones Studio’s conceptual concept rendering of the planned Thunderbird School for Global Management building on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix Campus. Courtesy of Arizona State University

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

The history and evolution of higher education and iconic facilities met on multiple fronts this week. Arizona State University has announced it will relocate the Thunderbird School of Global Management from its longtime home in Glendale to a new building at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

In making the announcement, the university said the move is intended showcase, “the strategic importance ASU places on Thunderbird and its role in the university’s global vision.”

“Locating Thunderbird with other ASU schools and departments on the Downtown Phoenix campus will provide greater community embeddedness and enhanced resources for Thunderbird students and faculty,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “This move also brings Thunderbird closer to other university schools and departments and to the private- and public-sector forces in downtown Phoenix that are engaged in international business and nonprofit organizational activity.”

The new building will be constructed between 1st and 2nd streets north of Polk Street and will be the sixth ASU college in Downtown Phoenix, the announcement stated. Various reports have projected the new facility’s valuation as between $40M and $50M. The announcement stated, “Construction of Thunderbird’s new building is expected to be complete in time to welcome students by January 2021. The new building will include space for classrooms, meetings, enclave and office space and will include two levels for executive education. There will also be rooftop function space.”

What Becomes of the Existing Campus?

While the relocation marks an important new development in the Thunderbird School’s evolution, its current location on 140 acres at 59th Avenue and Greenway Road is, itself, rich in history. The spot was originally a World War II era training airbase known as Thunderbird Field. After the war, the school’s first incarnation – the American Institute of Foreign Trade – was chartered on the site.

Through multiple ups, downs and name changes, the Thunderbird School of Global Management enhanced its offerings and prestige as it also maintained and added to the existing location. The school was acquired by ASU in 2014, and this year was named #4 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best International MBA Programs.

With the school relocation, ASU Enterprise Partners has begun talking with Glendale officials about producing a new master plan for the space.

The Arizona Republic reported Crow as saying the site will eventually be developed into a residential and commercial mixed-use property. The same article also noted the next step in the site’s educational legacy: ASU intends to keep a portion of the property to build a charter school under the ASU Preparatory Academy brand.

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