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Groundbreaking celebrates new PBC Innovation Center

Space will host commercial companies and research focused on health, wellness.
March 14, 2019

ASU will lease half of 225,00-square-foot building on Phoenix Biomedical Campus; rest to be filled by private companies

If everything had gone as originally conceived, the land at Fourth and McKinley streets in downtown Phoenix would be smack-dab in the middle of the Arizona Cardinals NFL football stadium complex.

Instead, last week in a formal groundbreaking ceremony, the city of Phoenix welcomed Wexford Science and Technology and Arizona State University to celebrate the construction of a new building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, the PBC Innovation Center. And while the local NFL football team has been playing games in its Glendale stadium since 2006, city leaders will tell you that that the effort with Arizona State University to attract the Wexford team was worth the wait.

For ASU, this is an assignment that began three Phoenix mayors ago.

“More than 10 years ago we became the partner of the city of Phoenix with two mutual objectives,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “First, to help increase the educational attainment, educational success and scientific discovery inside the city of Phoenix by embedding university ideas and energy in downtown Phoenix. Second, to partner with everybody else, with the UofA, NAU and city of Phoenix, and to find world-class development partners like Wexford, who have built fantastic projects and who make things happen by attracting scientific and technological enterprises to their facilities.”

“This building represents progress on all fronts.”

The $77 million, 225,00-square-foot Wexford building will be the first piece of a 7-acre parcel ASU is responsible for on the city’s 30-acre biomedical campus. ASU will lease approximately 112,000 square feet — half of the building — for 15 years with three five-year options. The remainder will be occupied by private-sector companies — the part that organizers say makes this step so important to the city, to the campus and, ultimately, to discovery and innovation.

“This is the first time since Phoenix has had its biosciences campus that we’ll have space for companies to commercialize and commercial companies to participate,” said Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix. “Wexford Science and Technology is an internationally recognized biosciences thought leader in creating and developing innovation corridors.”

Wexford Real Estate Company is focused exclusively on partnering with universities, academic medical centers and research institutions to develop vibrant, mixed-use, amenity-rich knowledge communities that are built on a foundation of research, discovery and entrepreneurial activity. Headquartered in Baltimore, Wexford’s portfolio extends across nine states and includes projects in key urban centers in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami and Baltimore. It has 6 million square feet of property developed or under development.

“Wexford is all in on creating this knowledge community in downtown Phoenix,” said Jim Berens, CEO of Wexford. “The reason we are so confident about its success is that when we look around the country at these kinds of projects, it starts with having a world-class university — and here, we have that in spades with Arizona State University, their research enterprise and their commitment to creating jobs and building communities.”

“At 200,000 square feet, you will have everything from a scientist with an idea renting a bench and using equipment, to attorneys and marketers who can help them grow their business, to full labs, to large labs and to eventually having commercialization. ... This is not just your typical building. It’s much more about driving new companies and life-saving technologies and ideas.”
— Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix

Mackay described the Phoenix project as “a lab to grow startups.”

“At 200,000 square feet, you will have everything from a scientist with an idea renting a bench and using equipment, to attorneys and marketers who can help them grow their business, to full labs, to large labs and to eventually having commercialization in other buildings on the campus,” Mackay said. “So this is not just your typical building. It’s much more about driving new companies and life-saving technologies and ideas.”

ASU’s involvement is catalytic and is key to attracting private-sector involvement, Crow said.

“Wexford is taking a risk on us, and we’re very excited about it,” he said. “Our job within the university is to be a knowledge enterprise. We produce several types of knowledge products, and our most important product is people who pass through the university. The second product we produce is ideas — ideas that come from facilities like this.”

“This facility empowers our College of Health Solutions, our College of Nursing and Health Innovation, the UofA College of Medicine, NAU programs in allied health, and all of this activity creates a critical mass. And that attracts the private investment of companies that want to be here with us, linked to us. That’s what we’re after.”

Inside the building, ASU researchers and their counterparts will be unlocking discoveries.

“Right here ... ASU health researchers will have the unique opportunity to partner with the clinical ecosystem on the Phoenix Biomedical campus and in the adjoining area — entities like Banner Health, Barrow Neurological Institute, Dignity Health, the VA, MIHS (Maricopa Integrated Health System), Phoenix Children’s Hospital,” said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, executive vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise. “This will create amazing new opportunities for clinical research that focuses on health, wellness, nutrition and more.”

While a big step forward, the Wexford Building represents only a small portion of what will occur on the remaining portion of the site. The master plan for the 7 acres north of Fillmore includes approximately 1.8 million square feet of additional development of this innovation district. 

Rick Naimark, associate vice president for program development planning, who worked for nearly three years to find the right partner for this project, said the next building will come soon after this one — now called the Phoenix Biomedical Innovation Center — opens.

“The next building will be even larger than this one,” Naimark said. “But before we move forward on that, our immediate task is working with the provost, KED and several deans in identifying the more specific research activity that will go into our half of the building, and working with Wexford’s designer and builder to design the tenant improvements to meet their needs.”

It’s another move that will fill-in the bio-medical campus checkerboard the city envisioned when it turned away a public sports facility for something more complicated — but something with potential to pay off over and over again. 

“For an economic developer, this is a dream come true,” Mackay said. “This is where we will be helping to grow new companies for Phoenix, and it will help create a sustainable industry by which to diversify our economy.”

Top photo: An artist's rendering of the future building at Fourth and McKinley streets in Phoenix. Image by Wexford Science and Technology

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU, Amazon Web Services open Smart City Cloud Innovation Center

ASU campus-based center will address regional challenges using AWS Cloud

March 14, 2019

Arizona State University and Amazon Web Services (AWS) on Monday launched the ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) Powered by AWS, an initiative that focuses on building smarter communities in the Phoenix metropolitan area by using AWS Cloud to solve pressing community and regional challenges.

Located at ASU’s SkySong location in Scottsdale, the new center is part of a long-term collaboration between ASU and AWS to improve digital experiences for smart-city designers, expand technology alternatives while minimizing costs, spur economic and workforce development and facilitate sharing public-sector solutions within the region. Arizona State University - Amazon Web Services Smart City CIC ASU's Smart City Cloud Innovation Center, a collaboration with Amazon Web Services, opened Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house in its SkySong location. From left: AWS Director Ann Merrihew, ASU Vice President for Research Cynthia Sagers, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and AWS Global Head of Cloud Innovation Centers Ben Butler. Photo by Maggie Rome/ASU Download Full Image

“What ASU has done here is not only build a process and a means of communicating so that all know what others are doing, but they’ve also raised the bar, insisted on the highest standards, and said we will invent and simplify here,” said Ann Merrihew, director of AWS.

“The thing that I love about what ASU is doing is that it starts from inside. It starts with how ASU cares about its students. There’s a lack of feeling that it’s got to be exclusive — everyone matters,” Merrihew said. “And then saying, it’s not just us on campus. We live in a city, we live in a county, we are part of a global universe, and what we learn we’re going to share.

“That’s the point of the CIC,” Merrihew continued. “This is what it is to be a global leader.”

During the ribbon-cutting event, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane addressed the ongoing partnership between city of Scottsdale, the ASU Foundation and ASU. 

“This particular project is absolutely the epitome of what we’ve wanted to see happen here — a collaborative effort with technology and innovation bringing about greater efficiency and quality of life for all of us within our community and beyond,” said Lane. “This is one of those great partnerships where we really do see us come together for the benefit of not only those in this room and community and state, but beyond.”

Ben Butler, AWS global head of CICs, addressed the ways his team will support the center as it works with local planners to reduce infrastructure costs, spur economic and workforce development and solve real-world challenges by applying emerging technologies on the AWS platform.

“The distinguishing factor between this and other AWS programs is that we’ll have dedicated staff working full time on-site, shoulder to shoulder with our ASU partners to address these change-the-world, think-big types of issues,” Butler said.

“Real-world challenges from various parts of the public sector and from within the university will be submitted to the CIC. We’ll combine public-sector knowledge of the community and its challenges with the expertise of ASU’s faculty, staff and students, and use AWS technologies to solve those challenges,” Butler said. “And we’ll do it using open-source software — we’ll share the solutions and prototypes we create with other communities facing the same challenges.”

The Phoenix metro area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., according to Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, noting that demographically, the region also has the sixth-youngest market in the entire U.S.

“But that’s not enough,” Camacho said. “The convergence of innovation at scale with the multidisciplinary focus of this university, combined with our ability to solve the significant challenges with solutions born here, is critically important.

“What I can tell you that’s distinctive about this region is that we truly do work together for the benefit of our citizenry.”

According to Lev Gonick, ASU’s chief information officer, the CIC is a north star for greater Phoenix and Maricopa County.

“But it also has a broader context,” Gonick said. “Because we very much know that the question of how to use technology to advance the quality of life and resilience of the community is not ours alone. It’s a global challenge.

“This is the New American University. The CIC enables us to bring everything that we have as part of our mission and around our research, combining student engagement and community visions, powered by AWS and its resident staff, to advance the vision of a connected place.”

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications