Our Work

Redefining A Campus through Innovation

  • Arizona State University
Client Type
  • Higher Education

Mesa, AZ

Practice Areas
  • Vibrant Campuses

Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus

U3 Advisors and Sasaki Associates developed a district master plan to launch a new phase of innovation for the institution and the region.


ASU seeks to transform the campus into a twenty-first century research district that leverages the internationally recognized research programs housed at ASU. The following principles were developed with ASU to guide the master plan, which was completed in 2017:

  • Strengthen and enhance the educational, research, and outreach mission of ASU
  • Contribute to the discovery and development of new technologies
  • Assist in the development and growth of creative, cutting-edge research companies
  • Contribute to the economic development of the East Valley and the State of Arizona at large

U3 analyzed the regional demographics and real estate market to identify the industry sectors in which growth was occurring and mapped those trends against the research and commercialization strengths of the ASU Polytechnic Campus. U3 then pinpointed the economic terms under which real estate in the innovation and advanced manufacturing sectors was being developed in the region. Through this work, U3 was able to define the unique value propositions for the Polytechnic campus, identified partnership opportunities with the private sector and allied industries, and prepared an implementation and funding strategy for the district.

U3 identified three core element of the Polytechnic Campus competitive advantage:  1) proximity to Poly’s students, faculty, researchers, and campus resources (career services, labs and equipment, etc.); 2) exemption from ad valorem property taxes for users that support the mission of the new Research District, and 3) opportunities for a variety of research and different scales, development models, and partnership structures. One of ASU Poly’s biggest assets is the amount of space it can offer and diversity it can support, including traditional offices, co-working space, incubators, wet/dry labs, and outdoor testing beds.


Transform and expand ASU’s Polytechnic campus – traditionally a commuter-based campus – into an industry-leading research and innovation district.


Develop a master plan based on alignment between research strengths, local economic advantages, and funding opportunities.


Plans are underway for the ASU Polytechnic Innovation Zone, with major local partnerships and public support.

In order to implement and fund the district plan, ASU plans to invest in infrastructure and create development pads within the Research District in order to enter into long-term ground leases with tenants who would then construct their own improvements. ASU’s goal is to brand its innovation zone to attract partners from within and beyond the region that are aligned with the research that is already happening at the Poly campus, including IT/technology, regenerative systems (food, water, energy, resiliency), and aeronautics/ aerospace/defense.

Based on our analysis of historical trends, we found that the new Innovation District could capture approximately 15% of the Mesa/ Chandler/Gilbert office submarket during the initial phases. At full build-out over the next 30 years, the master plan can accommodate up to 9.3 million square feet of development including office, research, and academic space; residential; commercial/retail; parking; and open space. U3 projected that at full build-out the District could generate more than $40 million in proceeds to the project over 30 years. Additionally, the City of Mesa indicated its potential ability to fund up to $40 million worth of infrastructure to support the Research District, in recognition of the anticipated economic benefits generated from the development of the site.

Today, plans for the ASU Polytechnic Campus Innovation Zone are underway as a partnership between ASU, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Skybridge, the United States’ only inland international air logistics and joint U.S.-Mexico Customs processing hub. The Innovation Zone will include the ASU Polytechnic Research Park that will specialize in hands-on exploration of innovative solutions in aviation, alternate energy, human-technology integration, comprehensive commercial printing and design services, and on-demand digital manufacturing.

The Innovation District Master Plan was designated by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) as a 2018 Honor Award Recipient for Excellence in Planning for a District or Campus Component.