Arizona State University will open the Chandler Innovation Center this fall, which will bring engineering and technology courses to the downtown area, Mayor Jay Tibshraeny announced during his State of the City address Tuesday.

"It will bring hundreds of students to downtown, day and night, to identify solutions to challenges posed by partnering science and technology companies," Tibshraeny said. "I am personally thrilled to bring this new endeavor to Chandler, as it has been a goal of mine to bring ASU and U of A to downtown."

About 100 students are expected to attend classes this fall. Preparations are under way to convert 33,000 square feet of empty office space at the city's former public works yard at 249 E. Chicago St. into classroom and lab space over the coming months.

"It's a nice fit between our focus on innovation and Chandler's focus on science and technology innovation," said Mitzi Montoya, executive dean of the College of Technology and Innovation.

The program is an extension of one based at ASU Polytechnic in east Mesa, but the software engineering program in Chandler will be specially designed for part-time students to take evening and weekend classes. The part-time design will more easily allow working professionals to take classes.

"The ASU Chandler Innovation Center will house world class teaching and research programs from ASU's College of Technology and Innovation," said ASU President Michael Crow in a prepared text. "It will benefit the residents of Chandler who want to take classes closer to home or to their place of employment and make the city an even more attractive location for high-tech companies."

Students in the program will work on projects that will connect them with advisors from local technology companies to solve hands-on, real-world problems for those companies, said Richard Stanley, ASU senior vice president and university planner. The program intends to work with businesses located in Chandler's Price Road corridor. Six of the city's top 10 employers are located in the technology corridor, according to the city.

Plans for the partnership began late last fall and have quickly come together, Stanley said. Renovation is expected to begin in April, according to a city press release. The building has remained largely unoccupied since the department moved to offices in the new City Hall, Tibshraeny said.

It is projected to bring $23.8 million to Chandler over the first eight years and projections estimate 1,000 students will eventually attend classes in the center.

While it will employ 10 full-time faculty members, the city projects dozens of local "spin-off" jobs.

"This, coupled with the U of A program means more good things for Chandler," Tibshraeny said.

The announcement comes a week after University of Arizona said it will extend a number of its educational, science and technology master's degree programs to the downtown area and about a month after Mesa's announcement that it's negotiating with Benedictine University to open a campus in downtown Mesa.

"Mayor (Scott) Smith and I have a shared vision about higher education," Tibshraeny said. "We're both passionate about higher education and see a tremendous opportunity for it in our cities."

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