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ASU convenes leaders for Rio Salado project

November 17, 2017

Valley leaders express support for the vision of a 'multigenerational' plan to transform 45 miles of riverbed from Buckeye to East Valley

Arizona State University unveiled its role in helping create a new future for the Salt River to a group of Valley civic and business leaders Friday morning.

The Rio Salado plan will transform the entire Salt River bottom through metro Phoenix into an urban and environmental amenity.

The project, which will run from Granite Reef Dam in the East Valley to the Tres Rios Wetlands in Buckeye, will be “multigenerational,” said Duke Reiter, senior adviser to ASU President Michael Crow.

“These things take time, but somebody needs to tee them up and get them going,” Reiter said.

ASU is building a studio for a “reservoir” of projects. Rio Salado will utilize much of the expertise at the university, including hydrology, biology, design, architecture, planning, finance and sustainability.

Reiter stressed it won’t simply be a continuation of Tempe Town Lake, but a balance between the two developed areas in the riverbed now: the environmental amenities at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix, and the commercial/recreational nature of Tempe Town Lake.

“It’s not Tempe Town Lake forever,” he said.

ASU President Michael Crow explained why the university is part of the effort.

“We see that this project has unbelievable potential for the future,” Crow said. As the Valley grows, a place will be needed for millions to engage, not simply thousands. The university will help create the future for the 45-mile stretch of river.

“We can see that having a broader impact” on the Valley, he said. “How will we be a part of this project for 50 years? One hundred years?”

The idea for Tempe Town Lake was launched by ASU in 1967, he noted.

Valley leaders expressed support for the vision.

“Water connects us all,” Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said. “The river connects us. ... This is deeply moving to me and my people as well.”

Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck said the Valley’s natural beauty will be restored when people can walk by the river and gaze at the mountains.

Meck grew emotional quoting a Greek proverb: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

A significant number of stakeholders have announced their support for the proposal. They include the mayors of Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Avondale and Buckeye; the Arizona Chamber of Commerce; the Gila River and Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes; APS, SRP, the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and all Arizona environmental groups.

Reiter cited numerous roadblocks, including funding, water supply and environmental concerns, among others.

“These issues will always persist,” he said. “We’ll overcome them.”

Outside in a pond beside the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, a beaver splashed in the water.

 

Top photo: Attendees stand outside the center prior to a conversation on the Rio Salado Project on Friday morning at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASNow

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

 
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ASU, McCain team up to transform Phoenix riverbed

Rio Salado 2.0 project to involve ASU students in the design and research.
ASU to manage the project, but voices from Valley communities to help steer it.
August 25, 2017

Rio Salado 2.0 project to utilize university expertise and Valley community input; students to be involved in design, research

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Arizona State University gave a preview Friday of a new effort to transform the entire Salt River bottom through metro Phoenix into an urban and environmental amenity, a project organizers hope would engage the creativity of the university community.

The area being considered runs from Granite Reef Dam in the East Valley to the Tres Rios Wetlands in the West Valley.

“We’re looking at this whole stretch,” said Wellington “Duke” Reiter, senior adviser to ASU President Michael M. Crow.

“Anybody who drives past Tempe Town Lake realizes what a success this is,” McCain said. “Every mayor wants a Tempe Town Lake.”

McCain said he is inspired by the river walk in San Antonio, Texas, as well as similar efforts underway in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas. “This Valley is going to grow,” he said. “What kind of a place do you want your kids to grow up in?”

“We want to make this an example to the rest of the state, as well as the nation,” McCain said. “I’ll tell you whose plan it is, and who’s going to make it work, and that’s ASU.”

The immediate next step is to form a steering committee and establish timelines.

Reiter said the project would be managed by ASU, but that ASU would not be the driver.

“The university will be a convener of community interests and key stakeholders to make sure all voices are heard and reflected in the work to be done,” he said.

It will be a project that utilizes much of the expertise at the university, including hydrology, biology, design, architecture, planning, finance and sustainability. Students will be involved in the design and research.

“How we’re going to get this done is a function of the many layers of expertise at this university,” Reiter said.

The project will not be simply a continuation of Tempe Town Lake, but a balance between the two developed areas in the riverbed now: the environmental amenities at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix, and the commercial/recreational nature of Tempe Town Lake.

McCain stressed it won’t be an office park on a riverbank. If amenities like bike trails and picnic areas aren’t there, business won’t follow.

“If it’s not nice, they won’t want to locate there,” he said.

Reiter characterized the project as a “string of assets.”

“Nothing has been developed yet,” he said. “We’d like to set the course now.”

A significant number of stakeholders have announced their support for the proposal. They include the mayors of Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Avondale and Buckeye; the Arizona Chamber of Commerce; the Gila River and Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribes; APS, SRP, the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and all Arizona environmental groups, McCain said.

“By the way, it’s got to be sooner rather than later,” McCain said. He said he did not want the project held up by endless study and review. He urged a cap of two years on planning and design before groundbreaking. “It’s going to be our timeline,” he said.

McCain, who told the students he is starting to think about his legacy, explained why he is supporting the project.

He brought up State Farm’s new regional headquarters on the lake in Tempe and the company’s recent hiring of 2,000 employees. Total investment around the lake is more than $1 billion, he said.

“Would they be doing that without a Tempe Town Lake?” he said. “Of course not.”

Part of the design will incorporate conservation, Reiter said.

“We want to make this a water-positive project,” he said.

The project is being dubbed Rio Salado 2.0.

“Don’t think it’s going to be easy,” McCain said. “There’s going to be opposition from the right and the left.”

“We’re going to make America great again,” he closed with a grin.

 

Top photo: Sen. John McCain joins ASU's Wellington "Duke" Reiter, senior adviser to ASU's president, to discuss Rio Salado 2.0 in McCord Hall on the Tempe campus Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502