As progress on Gilbert’s first four-year educational institution continues, one thing university officials are trying to do is blend the town’s aesthetic with a hint of their hometown.
The school, Saint Xavier University, will become Gilbert’s first post-secondary education option and is expected to open in the fall of 2015. The 87,000-square-foot facility will feature programs centered on liberal arts, business and an accredited nursing program for undergraduate and graduate students, all located in Gilbert’s Heritage District.
“I think it’s a perfect location for a university campus,” said Saint Xavier University Provost Paul DeVito, citing the abundance of restaurants already in the area and ones like Zinburger and Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles set to arrive in the near future.
DeVito emphasized the project still requires approval from the state’s education board, meaning it can’t begin to recruit students yet, but the process thus far has run quite smoothly. That includes the process of creating renderings of what the building will look like once completed, which features red brick and loads of silver to reflect the school’s colors.
It’s one of the touches DeVito said ties the new campus with the school’s home base in Chicago, including pieces of Saint Xavier’s original campus that burned down during the Great Chicago Fire. He said the synchronicity between the campuses mirrors that between Gilbert and Chicago: both municipalities, he said, feature water towers as prominent pieces of the landscape. Saint Xavier will be the first four-year institute in Gilbert, and it became the first Catholic University in Chicago when it opened in 1846.
“To me it ties together nicely,” DeVito said.
Aside from the symmetry between the two locations, something DeVito said Saint Xavier has kept in mind during the design phase is keeping with the Heritage District’s appearance. Essentially, the purpose is to ensure the campus isn’t overly ostentatious and doesn’t detract too much from the downtown aesthetic.
“Certainly we want to be visible … but we didn’t want to stand out so we aren’t out of place,” DeVito said.
Saint Xavier will still stand out due to the simple size of the facility, something Gilbert Economic Development Director Dan Henderson said people commented on during an exhibition of the rendering in late May.
Henderson said the comments made about the amount of space the facility will take up were neither positive nor negative; rather, the comments were more of a realization of how large the building is.
“That’s definitely a dominant building in the downtown,” he said.
Other questions Henderson said he’s received involved the color of the facility — he attributed those comments to renderings he said don’t quite capture the project — and about potential problems with parking once Saint Xavier opens. On the parking front, Henderson said the town actually has a pretty strong surplus of spots available downtown, and one of the requirements Saint Xavier had to fulfill was ensuring there would be a sufficient number of spots available within 1,000 feet of the facility.
The surplus of parking spots should ensure the downtown businesses aren’t hindered by Saint Xavier’s presence and can reap the anticipated benefits the project will have.
“We see Saint Xavier having a direct impact, a strong impact on the downtown economy.”