Supporters: Campus In Payson Would Attract ‘Granola’ Type Students

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An Arizona State University campus in Payson would bring with it more “granola” type students over “bar hopping” undergraduates, community supporters said Monday night before a crowd of about 80 people at Payson High School.

The town will not be overrun with partying students if ASU operates a 6,000-student campus in the next five years, said Payson Councilor Su Connell.

Connell envisions a group of students very much involved with the community, while attending the highly-touted, cottage campus among the ponderosa pines of Payson.

Moreover, backers estimate 25 percent of the first attending class will be older adults.

While that might mean area trails fill up with students, there won’t likely be new bars popping up as in Tempe, where students flock to Mill Avenue, a stretch of road packed with clubs.

Architects finished preliminary plans for the campus June 17, which includes four dorms and four teaching facilities on 10 acres of land adjacent to Gila Community College.

The campus is expected to attract new businesses, including restaurants, retailers, medical services, counter cyclical businesses and 600 permanent, full-time jobs, supporters said.

Penny Navis-Schmidt, whose counseling practice is on Main Street, said she is thrilled at what a campus could bring the local economy.

“When I drive down Main Street, where my business is I, I see empty businesses and I see that full of new energy,” because that is what education and student brings to an area.

Judie Lyons, a member of the ASU volunteer planning committee, said the benefits of the campus are numerous. That includes improved broadband access, a more stable real estate market, a broader range of services and demand for high-wage, and skilled jobs.

“Business generates more business,” she said.

Lyons also believes the campus will mix well with Gila Community College, attracting new students to the campus.

The ASU campus will start with 600 students and in a decade grow to 6,000 on-campus students and 60,000 online.

Mayor Kenny Evans said the campus will be built in two distinct stages. On June 17, Evans wrapped up design plans with ASU officials.

Phase one construction will begin as early as December on 67 acres of private land just east of the GCC campus.

The site would feature four dormitories and four instruction buildings, all centered on a large, grassy quad. Evans said the plans call for only using 10 of the available acres. The extra land surrounding the campus will act as a buffer from commercial growth. As the community grows, Evans said they want the campus to keep a woodsy charm.

So there won’t be any skyscrapers or concrete buildings, he insisted. Planners envision a cottage-style campus, with paths, not roads, leading students to classes. In fact, no vehicles will be allowed on campus. Students will have to park their vehicles in a parking garage and walk to class.

The first phase should take two years to build, ending sometime in August of 2013. Construction on phase two should start in February 2012 and run through August 2016.

Phase two is located directly across Highway 260 from phase one, on 290-acres of Forest Service-owned land.

Evans is working to acquire the land from the Forest Service, but says red tape is holding things up.

The southern campus will feature more classrooms, a research park, convention center and hotel and performing arts center.

A sky bridge will cross over Highway 260, connecting the two sides of the campus.

A performing arts center will have seating for 1,500 people and as many as 7,000 people when the back walls are opened to a grassy knoll.

The conference center will accommodate as many as 1,000 people for conferences, but the proposed convention hotel will only have 500 rooms. Evans said that means the hotel won’t take away from the 627 hotel rooms available in town.

The tallest building will not stand higher than 65 feet, the limit in Payson’s current ordinance.

Evans hopes two-thirds of construction is done by local workers.

A local firm did not do the design plans. Architects on ASU’s pre-qualified list were asked to submit plans and one was selected.

So far, private investors have paid $2 million for preliminary design plans and other costs.

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