ASU dorms changing downtown Phoenix skyline

Posted By Mike Padgett

Aug. 6, 2008

Crews are putting the final touches on two new mid-rise buildings that are helping Phoenix grow skyward, instead of outward.

The new structures that are helping change the downtown skyline, instead of adding to the region’s sprawl, also will add nearly 1,300 new residents to downtown’s urban dynamics.

The 13-story buildings are Taylor Place, the name of Arizona State University twin dormitories at First and Taylor streets. Construction workers are hustling to complete the first dorm in time for the Aug. 20 opening date. The second building will open in January.

Crews are wrestling washers and dryers off delivery trucks and onto each floor of the buildings. Workers are going from floor to floor, touching up drywall and paint where needed.

Other workers are almost finished with an outdoor seating area called the “urban shade garden,” the ground floor dining hall, leasing office, the retail space for a Starbucks and a small convenience market.

One of Taylor Place’s “green” features is the use of condensation from the buildings’ air conditioning systems in an outside water feature and to irrigate the landscaping.

The twin buildings are the first new university dorms to open in downtown Phoenix. The south tower is designed for freshman. It has 744 beds, with two beds per room. The north tower is designed for sophomores, juniors and seniors. It has 540 beds arranged in two beds per unit, but each with its own room and a shared bathroom.

Construction started in June 2007. The general contractor is Austin Commercial Contractors. The architect is SmithGroup.

Taylor Place is across First Street from ASU’s new Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which opened in July.

Taylor Place has kept several architects from SmithGroup busy. One is Brady Rewerts, who with SmithGroup Public Relations Coordinator Sommer Caraway walked me through the building.

We stepped aside to let workers maneuver washers and dryers on hand trucks through the main entrance.

“This’ll be the Starbucks on this side, and that’ll be the convenience store,” Rewerts says, motioning to retail space on both sides of the lobby.

Past the lobby is the dining hall, which will be open to the public. Only the students with access cards are allowed on the dorms’ residential floors.

“ASU really wanted this to have the urban feel,” Rewerts says. “ASU wanted the interaction of the community, where downtown folks could come in and eat lunch with the students.”

We walked west through the building toward the street, where crews were nearly finished with the outdoor shade garden.

The dorms are owned by Downtown Phoenix Student Housing LLC, a not-for-profit company that borrowed and sold bonds to pay for the work. The company hired Capstone Development Corp. to develop and manage the project until the debt is repaid, at which time the dorms become the property of ASU. The management of Taylor Place is a collaboration between Capstone and ASU.

Capstone Senior Vice President Jeff Almaras and Vice President Chad Izmirian joined us for part of the tour.

“This whole shade garden is open to the public during the day, as well as the entire ground floor,” Izmirian says.

Izmirian adds that in addition to the Starbucks and the convenience store, a few other spaces on the ground floor are available for other retailers.

On each floor, just past the elevators, is a lounge area with sofas and easy chairs.

To soften the visual impact of the long corridors on each floor, the carpeting includes a design outside each room that catches the eye and encourages students to mingle. And over each door is a “porch light” feature.

Laundry facilities are on each floor. Students can program the washers to alert them, via cellphone or e-mail, when their laundry is done, Caraway says.

The buildings are connected with pedestrian bridges on each floor. On every odd-numbered floor, the bridge will have a “pod,” or steel popout, where outdoor lounge furniture will be added. Other features include digital bulletin boards, Wi-Fi networks, and a fitness center.

Only the south building has elevators, a feature designed to promote interaction between students in both buildings.

Capstone staff and a few students have moved in, and on Aug. 20, “the doors open for everyone,” Izmirian says.

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Aug 6th, 2008

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