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State of the City Holds Interest for A/E/C

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at his State of the City address April 25. Credit: Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Heaven knows there’s nothing like reporting on political sniping or speculating about leaders’ next career moves, but in the kerfuffle over Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s State of the City address this week, a couple items of particular interest to the A/E/C committee got buried in the coverage.

Sure, it’s likely Stanton will soon be moving on to seek a statewide office, probably Secretary of State. Sure, it was fun to hear him rip into the sorry state of education priorities and funding in the Capitol, but it was his references to economic development and growth potential that really should have had everyone’s ears pricked up.

Downtown: Always the Belle of the Ball

The mayor spent a lot of time praising the rebirth and ever-increasing revitalization of Downtown, and with good reason. While the transition from sunset ghost town to one of the country’s most dynamic urban centers started under previous administrations, under Stanton’s leadership it’s hard to overstate the City’s efforts and the consequent results.

Among the downtown successes he ticked off in the speech were:

  • The Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which includes, “three new research buildings on the campus since 2012 – including a world-class cancer center.” He added, “Those buildings are now filling up with doctors, researchers and students.” Plans are underway to significantly expand innovation in the area and widen its impact on global healthcare and bioscience research. Under an agreement with the City, ASU has the ability to develop seven acres downtown for bioscience. One item under consideration would be the creation of one of the nation’s largest nutritional research centers.
  • Red Development’s Block 23 project, which recently broke ground and will include downtown’s first full-service grocery store in decades.
  • The swell of tech companies in the area, particularly in and around the Warehouse District. Since 2012 the number of technology companies in the “Phoenix Innovation District” have ballooned from 67 to more than 260, with more being added all the time. A key contributor to this success has been Galvanize, which has drawn in numerous other firms.

Radical Biomedical Expansion

One of the two items that were drowned out in the speculation about Stanton’s political future and his drubbing of the state government’s education policies was his praise of the Arizona Biomedical Corridor collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and ASU, which, “have teamed up with the City to create a nation destination for quality healthcare. Not only will this save lives and improve health outcomes, it will be a major economic driver that will create thousands of great jobs right here in Phoenix.”

In addition, he touted Mayo’s opening last year of its $180M proton beam therapy center.

What he didn’t discuss, likely because plans are still largely theoretical, is the potential for future healthcare development the 24-acre ASU/Mayo campus will open up in the 200 adjacent acres.

In March, AZBEX reported on a presentation by Rick Naimark, ASU’s associate VP for program development planning, to the Arizona Association for Economic Development. At that event, Naimark expressed his hope that the 200 acres near the innovation campus site that currently remains State Trust Land could ‘draft off’ the partnership’s momentum and be developed into a fully-fledged bioscience community. Naimark said, “I could argue that this piece of land is probably the most prime parcel of land west of the Mississippi. With the Mayo Clinic and ASU as anchor tenants, this is going to be a very robust spot for development. We’re working with the State Land Department to try to help make that happen.”

If the City, ASU and Mayo’s vision for even a portion of that space becomes a reality, the potential exists for several hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and construction.

Freeway Creates Development Potential

As has always been the case, the expansion of new freeway space creates all manner of new construction and development.

The second under-reported nugget in the mayor’s address was the vision for the South Mountain Technology Corridor.

As the 202 expands into the West Valley to ultimately hook up with I-10, Phoenix has a vision for a complete sea change in the area’s offerings and potential.

Stanton said, “The new 202 Freeway is under construction, and that offers us a rare opportunity to create jobs in a vast new employment corridor. We’re not going to let it pass us by. We are creating the South Mountain Technology Corridor near the freeway alignment in West Phoenix along 59th Avenue. It will be an area complete with modern business parks for advanced manufacturing, business services and emerging industries.

“Think of it as a Price Corridor of the West Valley. And we have to get it right – it will mean tens of thousands of jobs over the next 20 years. This will be a game changer, not just for the West Valley, but for the entire region.”

With those two new potentials for explosive growth, combined with the dynamic gains made in downtown, the light rail, education and healthcare development, technology innovation, sustainability, infrastructure, housing and economic promotion and support services, it’s not surprising Stanton chose to close his address thusly: “We have a lot to be proud of. We turned the page, charting a new course. Our city is stronger than ever. And I am proud of the chapter we are writing together in the story of Phoenix.”

A full transcript of Stanton’s address is available here.

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