Asu Offers Deal, But Alliance Still Pondering

Financing details, private academy prevent plan from making it to Arizona Board of Regents this month

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Arizona State University has submitted a proposed intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to build a campus in Payson, but the proposal will not make it onto the Arizona Board of Regents’ agenda in February, said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.

The Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE) is still considering potential complications in both the financing and the impact of including a second, private, specialized academy, said Evans.

Evans said the project could grow beyond the original plans, but won’t make the optimistic 2013 projections for opening phase one of the campus. Instead, the target has now reverted to the fall of 2014.

Backers of the campus plan will meet this weekend with representatives of both ASU and the private academy to talk about how the two projects might dovetail. The academy might have as many as 1,200 students. ASU wants to build a 1,000-student first phase and then add facilities for another 5,000 students as enrollment grows.

Evans had previously said he expected the IGA between ASU and the Educational Alliance would go before the Board of Regents in February.

“We’re not going to be on that agenda because we at our end have had some challenges in terms of what we’re going to have to do to give answers to (ASU’s) latest draft IGA,” said Evans.

He said three other universities have expressed continuing interest, but are waiting in the wings until ASU and the Educational Alliance decide whether to proceed.

Evans declined to provide details of the private, specialized academy, but said it could involve an investment of hundreds of millions that could end up on nearly 90 acres of land the Alliance has bought or optioned north of Highway 260 fronting on Tyler Parkway.

That would leave some 300 acres of Forest Service land directly south of that parcel for a public university campus and dorms.

The project would also include a convention hotel, research park and incubator center, dedicated to turning university research into commercial products. In addition, the plan calls for building a Chinese solar cell assembly facility on a parcel near the airport that wouldn’t actually be part of the land controlled by the Alliance. Previous accounts have suggested that assembly plant might end up within the boundaries of the SLE district controlled by the Alliance.

Evans said ASU had responded positively to the Alliance’s last offer. The outstanding issues center more on financing than on the financial terms of the relationship between ASU and the Alliance.

Evans said in order to secure some $400 million in financing for the campus, backers had promised to help the lenders, National Standard, come up with a billion dollars worth of projects in other Arizona cities. Financing the academy would help fulfill that pledge.

ASU’s “counter proposal has been made,” said Evans. “It has some issues in that it require us to get additional commitments and additional documentations put in place. We just ran out of time to get that accomplished before the Board of Regents’ meeting. It’s more about the financing than about the costs.”

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