New ASU Tech and Innovation Hub set to open in Downtown Mesa

Arizona State University is expanding its reach once again with a new campus in downtown Mesa that will focus on training students in digital technologies. The annex center will help prepare students for careers in transdisciplinary digital expertise that tech companies need.

Think of emerging technologies that are starting to filter into our everyday lives such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, self-driving tech, etc. The new innovation hub will look to find ways to capitalize on those and more.

The newly minted ASU Mesa location will open in the fall of 2021 will offer academic programs by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in areas such as digital and sensory technology, experiential design, gaming, media arts, film production and entrepreneurial development, all areas that are expected to continue to rise in workforce demand in coming years.

“We’re anxious to have ASU be the anchor in this resurgence in downtown Mesa. It’s a complementary relationship,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said. “We have all the pieces of the puzzle to have a successful tech center in our downtown. We were lacking an anchor, but this project will be that.”

The announcement for the center was touted at a recent Mesa State of the City luncheon by Mayor Giles.

In 2017, Arizona added nearly 4,200 tech jobs, making an economic impact of $28.5 billion. That trend is only being encouraged by an expanding aerospace sector in Tucson, tech companies buying up giant large pieces of land, and researchers out of Arizona State University being selected to help with emerging energy technology. All these together point to the narrative that Arizona is growing as a hub of innovation and technology, which is perfect timing for a new tech center.

“You’re going to see a lot of bright young people and professors working downtown and a lot of businesses will come to Mesa to hire those folks and be close to the new program,” Mayor Giles said.

The center will be five stories tall and located right in the heart of Mesa’s thriving downtown district near the Mesa Arts Center. More than 750 Arizona State University students, faculty and staff are expected to be in the 118,000-square-foot academic building once it is completed. The project is part of the city’s vision of growing the downtown district into an innovation nucleus, not just for the city, but for the state as a whole. Sample visual aides from the proposal depict a mixed-use space with screening theaters, cafes and an art exhibition gallery along with collaborative spaces for technologies to be worked on and studied.

Given the fact that the school will be implementing a focus on augmented reality and virtual reality, there is a dedicated studio space where users can create virtual map spaces. Think of Tony Stark developing mapping technologies and virtual blueprints in the Iron Man film series.

“It’s exactly what any city would want. When I go to conventions about economic development, what I find everyone is talking about is AR, 3D design, VR and emerging tech. They have these applications in every industry and discipline,” Mayor Giles said.

The tech center is also expected to be a community hub for locals who want to invest time developing their startup ideas. Run by ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation center, the center will offer up physical space for community workshops, seminars, demonstrations and tech bootcamps.

Nick Esquer

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