We know that ASU students are a huge part of the success of the Phoenix light rail system. They ride in big numbers, spend money at businesses along the line, and they seem to enjoy the convenience of taking the train to school as well as out to play.
Recently, it was announced that Mesa could soon be welcoming college students downtown in the former Tri City Community Center building located at 225 East Main Street. In a story titled “Mesa, Benedictine University working toward downtown campus”, we learn more details on the possibility of an “urban campus with on-site student housing that will enroll 1,500 students within a decade.”
I’ve seen that building many times. It’s a cool old building that would be a great fit for a small college. The location is VERY close to a future light rail station and park and ride lot. It is also easy walking / bike riding distance from several small restaurants, coffee shops, Pioneer Park, museums, etc.
If they really can enroll 1500 students within the next 10 years, there seems to be a lot of reasons for people to take a look at the housing options in the area. Will there be a need for more? Will you see lofts in some of the cool old buildings downtown? Are some of the small historic neighborhoods close by ready for an influx of students? Will we see infill development come to some of the vacant land in the area? Are the business owners in Mesa ready for a bunch of college students from Benedictine University?
The photo above was taken just a couple of blocks west of the Tri City building that could be home to Benedictine and is right in front of the multi-million dollar Mesa Arts Center. I’ve mentioned many times how much I like the next section of light rail opening in Mesa in the not too distant future. The stretch of Main Street that will see light rail trains carrying passengers in and out of that city seems like a perfect fit for Transit Oriented Development ( TOD ) in this area. Downtown Mesa already has some TOD characteristics in multi-level, street-facing buildings with wide sidewalks. This helps to make living, working and playing very convenient. Obviously, people traveling in and out of Mesa via light rail will have even more choices than ever before once this next stretch opens.
While we are all familiar with the “chicken and the egg” discussions of bringing quality development and more residents to a downtown area, it seems that there is an interesting correlation between creating more urban environments surrounded by quality transportation and an influx of college students. We continue to learn from the short history of light rail in the Phoenix area. It will be fun to see how this one plays out, and it will be cool to see more students rockin’ the Rail Life!