The genesis for SkySong came from the 2003 Morrison Institute for Public Policy’s “Which Way Scottsdale?” report, which noted that the city was “behind the curve in hooking into” cutting-edge, technology-based industries. The report suggested the Los Arcos Mall location, at the southeast corner of Scottsdale and McDowell roads, as a potential site to spur such activity. With the previous failure of a number of plans to rebuild at the site, ASU, the ASU Foundation for the New American University and City of Scottsdale officials reached an agreement in May 2004 to buy and develop the site. Scottsdale acquired the 42-acre site and leased 37 acres to the ASU Foundation, while also implementing $40 million in infrastructure upgrades at the site. The ASU Foundation and two partners stepped forward to develop the property into a mixed use development.
SkySong the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center was conceived as a place where the business community could interact. It was to be a home for large companies, entrepreneurs, student entrepreneurs and selected ASU units. Before construction began, ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development undertook an extensive survey of incubators and their services to best integrate the university’s activities within the SkySong concept. In addition to offering programs and services to local entrepreneurs, ASU added a global dimension to SkySong and decided to offer soft landing services to international companies relocating to the United States.
Ultimately the university created an incubator to house startups and larger companies leased office space from the developers. In addition ASU created a variety of conference rooms to host events and meetings open to the business community including local associations, companies and others in order to create additional community interaction with SkySong. Construction of apartments has begun and retail opportunities will eventually be added to the site to round out the traditional definition of a “mixed use” development.
Finally an iconic shade structure was added to the site to offer outdoor event space. The structure became the visual identifier for SkySong and continues to spark inquiries about the development throughout the metropolitan area.
What evolved from the original concept is a mixed use development that supports companies from the startup phase to revenue generation, offering services throughout their development. In addition SkySong serves as an access point to the university for the business community. As the largest US University under a single administration, having a dedicated team at an accessible location like SkySong enables the university and business community to interact more easily. By including the global element, SkySong broadens the economic development footprint of the City of Scottsdale beyond its traditional borders.
Currently SkySong consists of two office buildings with 300,000 sq ft of office space. SkySong will break ground on two additional buildings in late 2012 and has broken ground for 325 apartments to be completed in late 2013. At full build out, 1.2 million sq ft of office and retail space will be available for lease in addition to the apartments.
The first two buildings opened in March 2008 and are currently 98% leased in a market with a 27% vacancy rate. Currently SkySong is home to 54 companies from eight countries as well as 20 student companies and eight ASU units. SkySong is a location that companies choose because of its connection to ASU, its central location and its amenities including its silver LEED certification. In addition to the office space, through the ASU event space over 5000 people visit SkySong monthly for a variety of business meetings and conferences.
For the City of Scottsdale, SkySong has been an attractive mixed use development that is serving as the foundation to a regeneration of the entire neighborhood. Over 1000 jobs are now located at SkySong and the estimated economic impact for the City of Scottsdale is $397 million. For ASU, it has been a full-service facility to serve its entrepreneurs and corporate clients. It puts the university into Scottsdale, a key suburb of the metropolitan area. The university also fulfills its economic development mission as it assists businesses, both large and small, with their development. Through ASU SkySong the university is also more accessible, allowing companies to engage more easily with the university. SkySong has also provided the university with additional options for its students through projects and employment with companies working with ASU SkySong or physically located at SkySong. Finally it allows ASU units to collaborate more closely. By co-locating Arizona Technology Enterprises, ASU’s technology transfer office, and the ASU Venture Catalyst, faculty spin-outs receive full service assistance from answers to IP questions to recruitment of a management team for their companies. By locating the student accelerator program at SkySong, ASU has professionalized the program, helping students realize they are truly entrepreneurs with goals for company growth in addition to being students pursuing a degree. For the ASU Foundation, SkySong has provided an additional investment vehicle for the university. It is the showcase location for the university’s off-campus real estate development.
SkySong is sustainable. The university is a committed partner to the complex and it has already survived one of the worst real estate downturns. Pre-leasing has begun for Buildings 3 and 4 and the timeline is gradual, with full build out planned for 2030. Additionally, as hoped when SkySong was designed, the neighborhood is starting to revitalize as well. In addition to the apartments planned, as part of SkySong another local developer will build an additional 500+ high end rentals adjacent to SkySong to open in 2014. Other neighborhood improvements include a grocery store renovation and expansion and new restaurants.
SkySong is just the beginning of a revitalization of South Scottsdale. It is estimated that SkySong’s overall economic impact will total $9.2 billion and house 5,000 jobs by 2038. SkySong is serving as a catalyst for the South Scottsdale area with additional office, retail and residential spaces currently in the planning stages by other developers. SkySong and ASU are the economic development engine of this part of Scottsdale and are providing a robust footprint for future success.
UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Chattanooga on October 22, 2012. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.