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'Father of Rio Salado Project' to be honored at pedestrian bridge

Foot bridge at Tempe Town Lake dedicated for founding ASU dean of architecture.
March 17, 2017

James Elmore, ASU’s founding dean of architecture, was driving force behind Tempe Town Lake

If you’ve ever gone for a jog or paddle boat ride around Tempe Town Lake, you can thank a man you’ve most likely never heard of: James Elmore, ASU’s founding dean of architecture, and the Father of the Rio Salado Project.

The city of Tempe and ASU are honoring Elmore on Saturday by dedicating the Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge in his honor.

Head shot of James Elmore
James Elmore, ASU's founding dean of architecture

“James Elmore was a champion of Tempe Town Lake for more than 40 years, from encouraging the College of Architecture to take on the Salt River as a project to bringing the student ideas to those who could make them a reality,” said David Scheatzle, a professor emeritus of the ASU College of Architecture. “Associating Dean Elmore’s name with the beautiful pedestrian bridge seems most appropriate for someone so dedicated to this vision.”

The afternoon ceremony, which is free and open to the public, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the ASU College of Architecture project that resulted in the Rio Salado Project, the predecessor to Tempe Town Lake. It’s also been 10 years since Elmore’s death in April 2007. He was 89.

A series of interpretive plaques explaining the history of the Rio Salado Project and Tempe Town Lake will be installed to the west of the bridge, along with a dedication plaque to Elmore.

The Rio Salado Project was a master plan for a designated 40-mile strip from Mesa to Phoenix to improve the region’s environmental quality and economic vitality along the dry Salt River bed. It was conceived in the fall of 1966 in a student design class when Elmore challenged them to address the problems and potentials of the Salt River channel and adjacent land.

“It was an exciting project because of the history of the river, how it nourished the land and its people, and how water can transform an eyesore into an asset,” said Bill Close, one of 16 class members who worked on the eight-week project and will be present at the dedication.

Close said a half-century ago the dry riverbed that is now Tempe Town Lake was filled with trash, abandoned cars and other discarded items.

The 16 student architects studied recreational benefits made possible through flood control. It included a marina, stables, golf, trails and water related activities. In early 1967, the plan was introduced throughout the Valley to media, public officials and civic leaders.

Rendering
A 1966 rendering of the Rio Salado Project.

Over the next few decades, master plans were drawn and changed, advisory groups were formed, funding mechanisms had to be ensured and legislation enacted to get the Rio Salado Project off the ground.

A master plan was created in 1984 by the Rio Salado Development District, which covers the Salt River from the Granite Reef Dam on the east to 43rd Avenue in Phoenix. This referendum was vetoed countywide by vote in November 1987.

Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell decided to develop Tempe’s portion of the river and his successor, Neil Giuliano and the City Council invested $45 million for the creation of the 2-mile long Tempe Town Lake, which started construction in August 1997.

Amenities include a beach park, marina, walking and bike paths, paddle boats, public art spots, volleyball courts, and several habitat areas.

Today, Tempe Town Lake hosts approximately 40 events annually and has had nearly a $2 billion impact since its inception based on tourism, development and local recreation, according to Tempe spokeswoman Kris Baxter. She added, more than 40,000 jobs are located within a mile of the lake, and it has about 2.4 million visitors annually.

“Not bad for a $45 million initial investment,” Baxter said.

Other cities are experiencing the benefits of the Rio Salado Project concept. Phoenix has also created a habitat restoration project that is now home to the Nina Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, and Mesa has begun restoration of the 2.5-mille Va Shly ‘Ay Akimel Salt River Ecosystem in partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The investment of time, passion and dedication must be credited to Elmore said Wellington “Duke” Reiter, who spent four decades pushing his students’ class project to fruition.

“Jim was a guy with big ideas, and he was never going to take no for an answer,” Reiter said.

“He would just keep coming back and coming back. He was going to persevere no matter what.”

 

If you go:

What: Dedication of the Elmore Pedestrian Bridge

Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway

When: Noon, Saturday March 18

Cost: Free

Information: riosaladoproject.org

 

Top photo: Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge at sunrise on March 4. Photo by Charlie Leight. 

 
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Space exploration, Arctic ice preservation, physics & more topics at TEDxASU.
March 20, 2017

ASU faculty, students to share their ideas and new ways of looking at issues in hopes of sparking inspiration in the audience

Electricity, cellphones and the internet are just a few examples of tools we use every day that have become indispensable to modern life. None of them would have been possible without the sharing of knowledge and revolutionary ideas that make innovation possible.

Arizona State University students and faculty who have made a meaningful impact on the world will speak to a crowd of more than 600 guests about their contributions at the second annual TEDxASU event from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Tempe Center for the Arts. (A research and entrepreneurship symposium begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the first block of talks at 6:30.)

The theme this year is “Innovation Worth Sharing,” and speakers will present on a wide range of topics, including art, science, technology and education.

“Innovation is a mechanism through which we as a species accomplish new things, make ourselves better and create a better future,” aerospace engineering undergraduate Jaime Sanchez de la Vega said.

He will be speaking about his work with an ASU cubesat mission, for which he is building a satellite that will help scientists study urban heat islands by taking thermal images of various U.S. cities from space.

The independently produced event, operated under a license from TED, was organized by ASU students and is aimed at sparking dialogue and providing members of the university community a platform to share their passion, ideas and innovation with the world.

"You don’t have to be a genius to make the world a better place through innovation."
— Jaime Sanchez de la Vega, ASU aerospace engineering undergraduate

“It’s always a moment of pride when we see our students taking on innovative projects and bringing them to life,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU.

“TEDxASU has been envisioned and implemented successfully by ASU students, which demonstrates their enterprising spirit. It aligns with ASU’s focus on empowering students to accomplish great things that benefit our communities.”

With a nod to the popularity of the internationally recognized TED Talks, ASU recently launched its own KEDtalks in the same vein, which feature ASU experts discussing things like the nature of risk, the plausibility of a weekend on the moon and the future of information security.

Knowledge Enterprise Development calls the talks a “bridge between your curiosity and what ASU researchers are exploring and discovering.”

Separate from that, TEDxASU was born out of TEDx, a program that supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

At Wednesday night’s event, topics to be discussed include autonomous decision-making systems; Arctic ice preservation and carbon dioxide emission; the future of multidisciplinary education; the next revolution in physics through biology; and the future of space exploration.

The venue will welcome more than 600 guests, compared with the 100 seats offered last year, marking significant growth.

“I hope it’s inspiring, especially for students like me,” de la Vega said. “I hope to demonstrate to them that even though I’m just an undergrad, my work can still make a meaningful impact on the world. You don’t have to be a genius to make the world a better place through innovation.”

The full roster of ASU speakers at TEDxASU 2017 include:

  • Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, executive vice president and chief innovation and research officer, ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development
  • Nancy Gray, professor, W. P. Carey School of Business, and founder, GrayMatter Creative
  • Klaus Lackner, director, Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, and professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Danielle McNamara, senior research scientist, Learning Sciences Institute, and professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Sara Imari Walker, assistant professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration
  • Theodore Pavlic, assistant professor, School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering
  • Jessica Rajko, assistant professor, School of Film, Dance and Theatre
  • Meenakshi Wadhwa, director, Center for Meteorite Studies, and professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration
  • Steve Desch, professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration
  • Ariel Anbar, President’s Professor, ASU, and distinguished sustainability scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Pat Pataranutaporn, undergraduate student, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jaime Sanchez de la Vega, undergraduate student, aerospace engineering