By Michael Jacobs
Tech park expansion looms
At the meeting, the University of Arizona and the Campus Research Corp., the group that markets and leases space at the facility, unveiled a plan to expand and develop 10 million square feet of space which now lies dormant at the park, near Interstate 10 and South Rita Road.
"This is the logical next step for the university because the project is really a student-oriented research program," said Bruce Wright, the park's chief operating officer. "If we can attract and maintain relationships with research companies, then UA students won't have to look far for jobs after they graduate."
The presentation, which was held in the park's cafeteria, featured demographic and architectural studies compiled by the Seattle-based consulting firm NBBJ.
About 30 people gathered to voice their suggestions and concerns about financial aspects of expansion. Some were concerned about tax increases when the UA bought the property in 1995.
"A master land-use plan is not a master plan to use and develop space, and therefore is not a commitment for the UA to develop the space," said Marshall Worden, the park's project director. "This gives us a structure for future plans. It is a document that will guide the future of land-use development."
Wright said he thinks the park's 4,000 employees will double when the site's 10 million square feet of available space is converted by the UA into research and development areas for future tenants.
"The University of Arizona does not have the capital or the main mission to expand that 10 million square feet," Wright said. "This is not another industrial or real estate development. UA is mainly interested in extending out academically to incorporate research-related strengths to the high-tech development of new technologies in the state."
Proposals for the space Arizona International Campus will vacate in July could be turned into an education and training center for companies on site, Wright said. A program to aid new companies with their start-up expenses would also be housed at the park, and UA courses could be taught in empty classrooms, he said.
"The initial intention, which is still vibrantly maintained, is to place university activities on the site," Wright said. "The relationship with the UA is vital to the growth of the park."
The Arizona Board of Regents purchased the park from IBM 2 1/2 years ago for $3.4 million.
"This park cannot be an economic drain on the university's resources. We are fully committed at being an efficient cost-effective program," Wright said. "By the year 2002, we will have paid UA back all expenses from their pocket that was needed to develop the park."
This year, the park's lease revenues generated $700,000 for the UA, Wright said. The park will have enough capital to run without outside resources by next year, he said.
The ninth largest university-related research park in the country is now 90 percent filled.
"We haven't picked a development plan," said Martin Regge, a representative of NBBJ. "These are merely conceptual ideas for the future."
The UA will present the park's master plan to the board of regents at their next meeting Feb. 26 and 27 in Tempe.