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ASU Seeks Innovation for 330 Acre District Development

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Potential future land use plan. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arizona State University

Innovation at every step in the design and development process is the watchword for ASU as it awaits for proposals to come in. The school is making 330 acres available for a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership.

Designating 480 acres as the Rio Salado ecoDistrict, ASU assembled the team of Future Cities, Green Ideas, and Arup to develop sustainability strategies for a showcase project. The school incorporated a series of goals and design aspirations. These strategies will apply to a potential 7M SF development that could be built out on 330 of the district’s acreage.

Sustainability Criteria

When reviewing business plans in Phase II of its SOQ process (See ASU Seeks Developer Article), ASU intends to look for teams’ proposals to implement those strategies.

Steve Nielsen, ASU Vice President of Development says this would be one of the few such integrated plans at this scale anywhere. The school hopes the concept will connect next generation sports venue development, nurture a resident creative class and successfully implement district-wide corporate partnerships.

The project’s primary goal, says the school, “is the creation of long-term economic viability through the development of a mixed-use built environment – emblematic of ASU’s aspirations in sustainable urbanism.” The plans will need to create a connected, walkable place and sustainably handle its own waste, water, power and transportation.

ASU “Aspirations” and Goals

Distinct mixed-use neighborhoods leveraging ASU brand assets are to be intermixed with the private development.

Among the dozen or so design aspirations:

  • Designing, managing and programming the streets and memorable civic spaces on which they converge as a public destination and regional attraction
  • Developing new buildings to create a consistent street frontage of more intimate pedestrian scale with different uses, textures, materials and sizes that merge easily into unique and identifiable neighborhoods

ASU’s goals are more basic: create a long-term revenue source for the University and its various programs. The ecoDistrict master plan focused on the underdeveloped properties east of Sun Devil Stadium with hopes that the “unrealized iconic value of ASU’s place and history,” can be redeveloped and repurposed with new uses based on stadium venue mixed with the robust development potential. Carried out, the school sees a steady funding source.

Read the complete sustainability strategies at AZBEX 

Table by AZBEX

Rio Salado ecoDistrict Sustainability Strategy Summary


Transportation Given its location, the District is inherently sustainable in nature. Developers will be able to earn credits with this low carbon element of the project. Other transportation criteria focus on pedestrian and bicycle linkages within The District.
Energy ASU is looking at next generation HVAC using extensive smarter, sustainable options for heating, cooling and energy production. The college intends to lower temperatures in Sun Devil Stadium. It’s open to considering biofuel waste-to-energy production.
Water Resources The University is not interested in just connecting to the Tempe wastewater collection system. The school is looking at a balance in water usage, harvest and treatment. A managed wetlands is expected to be used to store and generate water for play fields.
Waste Management ASU intends that the development be waste-generation neutral with facilities developed and collection systems designed to reduce or eliminate off-site waste stream.
Implementation The school is looking for business plans that will replace surface parking and parking structures with more usable, intimate development that will generate the funds necessary for the athletic facility innovation. Officials expect that the winning team is going to have an extraordinary project developed with significant innovation.

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