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ASU brings apartments, offices and hotels to Novus Innovation Corridor

Over the next 15 years, 4,100 apartments, 4.5 million square feet of office space, several hotels, and dozens of restaurants and shops will spring up around ASU’s downtown Tempe campus.

  • But the Novus Innovation Corridor is not a traditional development project. This is key to the financial future of ASU athletics.

What is happening: In 2010, the state legislature authorized universities to create college athletic facility districts to help fund new and improved facilities by leasing college land from private developers.

How it works: Developers will not pay property taxes as the university will retain ownership of the land and state land is not taxed.

  • Instead, developers will pay fees to the university similar to what they would pay in property taxes. The university can reinvest this money in its sports facilities.

Details: ASU has committed approximately 355 acres of land that was once Greek housing, a golf course, and other outdated sports facilities to this new development venture.

  • The corridor is primarily along the rural route between University Drive and the Lake Tempe Town waterfront, but also includes land farther east on the Rio Salado Drive.
  • The idea is to create a walkable collection of housing, offices, retail and restaurants to complete the ring of development around Tempe Butte, or “A” Mountain.

What they say : ASU wants graduate students to continue living and working in Tempe, which will generate more jobs in the city, said Charley Freericks, senior vice president of Catellus Development Corp., Novus’ master developer.

  • “Almost every company we spoke to is moving to Arizona because of the education ASU offers and the workforce it has obtained through degrees.”

State of play: Novus’ first and second phases, which included the development of the Marina Heights office park on Tempe Town Lake, have been completed, but the current phase of development will begin to bring Novus’ urban vision to life, Freericks said.

  • It includes two hotels, three office buildings, three apartment complexes and over 60,000 square feet of retail space.
  • The third phase will be completed in about four to five years, but some projects will open as early as next year.

To note : Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has questioned the legality of ASU’s development projects and has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to stop them in court.

  • He believes that projects should pay property taxes.

The plot: Several other universities — including Purdue, Ohio State and Cal-Berkeley — have reached out to ASU to explore creating similar athletic districts, Freericks says.

  • Universities typically rely on endowments or ask taxpayers to foot the bill for their sports facilities, he says.