By Garin Groff for East Valley Tribune
When Mesa officials asked more than 1,000 liberal arts colleges last year if they’d consider opening a Western branch campus, city officials had no idea how their unsolicited proposals would be received.
But now that a fourth college has inked a deal to establish a campus in Mesa, the city has found itself in an unusual position when dealing with anybody would move its downtown.
The city is actually too overwhelmed to take on anything else.
With that, the final liberal arts college set to establish a downtown campus will be Wilkes University of Wilkes-Barre, Penn. It will join Westminster and Albright colleges in a former court building starting in the fall of 2013.
Mesa is already scouting locations to expand when the colleges fill up the 53,000-square-foot education center.
Wilkes could do that in three years. Smith estimates at least 1,000 students will be downtown in 3-5 years under the most conservative projections. The number could eventually reach 3,000 to 5,000, he said. That includes Benedictine University, which will open in a separate city-owned building.
Smith said he wants the colleges to be an integral part of the community, including economic development efforts. He envisions the colleges blending into the downtown so it’s difficult to tell what’s part of each campus and the rest of the area.
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