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ASU downtown Phoenix campus to give up parking, keep several buildings

More than 15 years after Phoenix voters approved bonds to finance ASU’s construction downtown, the city will take control of several university-used parking lots.

When the city financially committed to supporting the state university, a detailed intergovernmental agreement and master lease were signed. The lease included six city-owned lots at the southeast corner of McKinley and First streets for ASU to use for parking and future development. Now, Phoenix wants them back, and Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari has an idea.

“There’s no question in anybody’s mind that affordable housing is a huge need, especially in the downtown core,” she said during a recent subcommittee meeting.

Christine Mackay, the city’s economic development director, said the City Council would decide how to use the lots and ASU would no longer have rights other than temporary parking. She told subcommittee members her department could research council preferences and options this summer and present the council with a request for proposal to consider this fall.

In exchange, ASU will keep six buildings that make up the Mercado at Fifth and Van Buren streets rather than transfer ownership to the city as originally planned.

“As it exists today, although Mercado in 2024 would come into city use, ASU still has the rights to develop it and still has the rights to continue to move forward and they would have rights to our McKinley lots,” Mackay said. “This allows them to have the rights to develop on their own property they own today and council to make a  different decision—council today, with information that’s now 17 years later to make a different decision for McKinley.”

The Mercado is home to various educational programs and part of Phoenix’s biomedical campus, which restricts uses to fit into the educational and health care environment.

Here's how a city budget document explained plans for the 2006 voter approved bonds:

The $237.9 million Economic Development program is funded with 2006 bonds, community reinvestment funds, and nonprofit corporation bond financing.

Included in this program are downtown and citywide economic development projects.

Downtown projects include acquisition of land, renovation of three existing buildings and design and construction of new facilities in a 20-acre downtown site for ASU Downtown, design the new University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and infrastructure improvements to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

Land acquisition and site preparation near the downtown area for the expansion of the Life Sciences Research Park also is planned. Other projects include land acquisition for the Fillmore Property, equipment acquisition for the Translational Genomics Institute (TGEN)/ International Genomics Consortium (IGC) project, and downtown infrastructure improvements to sidewalks, landscaping and lighting, business redevelopment and art enhancements.

The citywide Economic Development program is funded with 2006 bonds. Planned projects include revitalization of public infrastructure on the west side of the city, assistance to small high schools targeted to specific career development programs and acquisition of property for the relocation of the state fairgrounds

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.