After receiving $100,000 in grant funding for a proposed "multiversity" campus, the inaugural Board of Directors met April 26 to begin discussing the project. The Yuma Multiversity Campus will serve as an education hub for existing institutions of higher education and the degrees they offer.
“The long-term impact of a multiversity in Yuma is that it will provide the talent pool needed to attract business to the area to provide much needed employment in the region. Students will gain cutting-edge knowledge and significant educational opportunities to allow for solving scientific problems, creativity, and invention for local companies,” explained a city press release.
The city received grants in the amount of $50,000 from the Arizona Community Foundation’s Fund for the Common Good and $50,000 from the Arizona Public Service Corporate Giving to begin planning for the campus.
The grant funds will be used to support the recruitment and hiring of an executive director, the establishment of an educational steering committee and a community committee to work alongside the executive director and board, and the establishment of a nonprofit corporation that will ultimately own and operate the multiversity campus.
“The vision is that the YMC will serve as a brick-and-mortar center where state universities and colleges can offer a full range of bachelor degree programs right here in our very own Yuma, where the YMC can expand on the incredible work and pace set by Arizona Western College and state universities to make higher education more accessible,” Mayor Doug Nicholls said.
“It will also create opportunities to strengthen the local industry, to bridge job creation in the area with accessibility to more academics, and ultimately to offer a better quality of life for Yumans,” Nicholls added.
The board discussed bringing community, academic and industry partners together for complete planning and development that will be key to turn the multiverse concept into a reality. “Nicholls has spoken with leaders from the three state universities, who are engaged and supportive of the effort,” the press release stated. The release also noted that the next steps include hiring an executive director.
Board members include Dr. Daniel Corr, AWC president; Jon Jessen, co-founder and board chairman of the Gowan Company; Julie Engel, president and CEO of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation; Dr. Robert Trenschel, president and CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center; Paul Brierley, executive director of the Yuma Center of Excellence in Desert Agriculture; Victor Smith, president and CEO of JV Smith Companies; and Yuma County Supervisor Russell McCloud.
DOWNTOWN UNIVERSITY PLAN
In 2017, the council adopted a plan for revitalizing the Old Town South Subarea that includes an initial combined downtown university and research park with a campus for up to 4,000 students, 300,000 square feet in building space and up to 430,000 square feet in student housing.
Officials hope that such a campus will draw students not just from Yuma but a 60-70 mile radius, including California and Mexico.
The approximately 28-acre research and development park, up to 250,000 square feet in size, would have 1,000 to 1,500 employees. This would provide opportunities for development of large and small lots and repurpose historic structures as support facilities.
The plan would be in phases and would not require build-out by the city. Rather, whatever is built would be built by the partners who decide to do it.
The plan dovetails with the city's 2014 Revitalization Plan, which includes enhanced streetscape, public trails and paths, public parking and revitalization of the historic Southern Pacific Freight Depot, Gila Street Greenway and Black Hill Trail and Overlook.
The campus would also build upon the improvements to the downtown over the last decade, the plan states.
The academic campus would be organized around a central mall originating at the intersection of Giss Parkway and Madison Avenue and running diagonally southeast toward the intersection of 6th Street and Arizona Avenue. The primary campus buildings would be arranged along this central mall with pavilion structures as focal points within the mall and gathering spaces.
At the southern edge of the campus an east-west extension would connect the area to student housing and the residential neighborhood. The plan also calls for transition and buffer elements from campus to adjacent neighborhoods.
At the northeast corner of the campus the existing railroad depot building would be converted into a restaurant/retail or student union "while maintaining the historic character unique to Yuma and this former railroad site." The architectural character of the campus would be inspired by Yuma's agricultural history "while incorporating modern materials and innovative technologies."
To begin, the plans calls for establishing pedestrian and vehicular connections, organized into four zones: academic campus to the northwest, historic preservation to the north, research park to the east and south, and residential buffer on the west.
During the first five years, the plan calls for attracting one or more universities to partner in developing a campus for 2,000 to 4,000 students. In the long run, the objective is to expand the campus to 5,000 to 10,000 students and develop the research park.
The plan notes that “while it is desirous” that the vision be implemented in the short term, “it is not practical to assume that public and private resources would be immediately available.” Therefore, the plan prioritizes program features and actions. The focus for the first 10 years is on land acquisition, with the city helping a partner college or university assemble and rezone the necessary properties.
The city will work with property owners to propose land trades of other city-owned properties or the direct acquisition of these properties needed for right-of-way, campus assemblage or other public projects such as parking and stormwater retention sites.
The city will take the lead in street construction and reconstruction early in the program implementation as well as streetscape improvements as opportunities are presented. The city will also offer support and incentive programs, such as city fee waivers, for initial development of the campus and research park.
For years 5 through 20, the focus would be on secondary streetscape, bike paths and greenway improvements outside of the core area on a project-by-project basis, unless major funding is found to complete the improvements.
As funding is available, other streets, paths and trails will be constructed, with special attention given to linking existing residential neighborhoods and the revitalization area.
In addition, the city will work closely with the GYEDC in marketing the research park development sites and opportunities, “which will provide higher paying technical and professional employment opportunities to the community.”
To read the complete plan adopted by the city, go to www.universityofyuma.com.