Aug 1, 2022 - Real Estate

ASU bringing apartments, offices and hotels to Novus Innovation Corridor

A rendering of high rises and retail.
A rendering of Novus Place Retail District. Photo courtesy of Novus Innovation Corridor

Over the next 15 years, 4,100 apartment units, 4.5 million square feet of office space, multiple hotels and dozens of restaurants and shops will sprout up around ASU's downtown Tempe campus.

  • But the Novus Innovation Corridor isn't a traditional development project. It's the key to ASU athletics' financial future.

What's happening: In 2010, the state legislature allowed universities to create university athletics facilities districts to help fund new and improved facilities by leasing university land to private developers.

How it works: Developers won't pay property taxes because the university will maintain ownership of the land, and state land isn't taxed.

  • Instead, developers will pay a fee to the university similar to what they'd pay in property taxes. The university can reinvest that money into its athletics facilities.

Details: ASU has committed about 355 acres of land that used to be Greek housing, a golf course and other outdated athletic facilities to this new development venture.

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

What they're saying: ASU wants to keep graduating students living and working in Tempe, which will drive more employment to the city, says Charley Freericks, senior vice president of Catellus Development Corp., the master developer of Novus.

  • "Almost every company we've talked to is relocating to Arizona because of the education ASU provides and the workforce it's gotten out of the graduations."

State of play: Novus' first and second phase, which included the development of Marina Heights office park on Tempe Town Lake, are complete, but the current development phase will start to bring the urban vision of Novus to life, Freericks said.

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

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

  • He believes the projects should have to pay property taxes.

The intrigue: 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 athletic facilities, he says.
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