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Archive: John Hall

Universities and Downtowns: Phoenix’s Big Breakthrough

John Stuart Hall / Nov 28 2008

For Release Sunday, November 30, 2008

John Hall

A lasting principle of urbanism: great universities are enriched, and cities advanced, when academic centers are located in city centers.

Sadly, many university governing boards took a different view in the last half of the 20th century, locating or moving campuses to auto-only-accessible outlying locations.

But a counter trend is now gaining strength. Arizona, one of the most spread-out of all states, offers a top example. Arizona State University (ASU), originally founded as the Tempe Normal School for the Arizona Territory in 1885, has decided it’s imperative to have a major presence in the heart of newly-vibrant downtown Phoenix, one of America’s newest big cities.

Big moves aren’t easy for universities–as one former university president once quipped: “universities are burning, seething caldrons of inertia.” But ASU is different. Its move of major facilities to downtown Phoenix is rooted in the twinned epiphanies of two visionary and ambitious leaders, ASU President Michael Crow and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. At a breakfast meeting just five years ago, President Crow and Mayor Gordon sketched the outline of what is now the ASU downtown campus…on a napkin. Read More »