By Rodney Campbell –
Location Near University Appeals to Students, Young Professionals
Colleges and universities are magnets for their communities. The entertainment, sports and educational opportunities draw more than students – and the best schools are savvy enough to have partners who want to make the campus area attractive to all age groups.
The Marshall Foundation has been an important ally for the University of Arizona since 1930. That’s when founder Louise Marshall and her husband, Thomas, created the first private foundation in the state and began purchasing property on and near campus. That land eventually became home to the highly successful Main Gate Square, a collection of shops and restaurants that attracts UA students, as well as tourists and residents.
“The UA is part of our universe,” said Marshall Foundation GM Jane McCollum. “We wouldn’t exist without it.”
The foundation’s next addition to the campus landscape will be the 14-story Graduate Hotel Tucson & The Collective Apartments at Main Gate, featuring a boutique hotel, apartments, retail, restaurants and public plaza. The properties will be constructed on a parking lot on the east side of the Tucson Marriott University Park at 930 E. Second St. This is the last piece of undeveloped property on campus owned by the Marshall Foundation.
Graduate Hotel Tucson will have 165 rooms, a ground-floor bar and café, and a rooftop bar and pool. The Collective will include 238 units, a fitness room, private courtyards, a spa and rooftop pool. The development team expects to break ground by the beginning of November and complete work in July 2020.
Siting two hotels next to each other isn’t a worry to the team members, including local developer Tom Warne, who is part owner of the apartments and a consultant on the hotel. McCollum and Warne see the hotel properties working to attract larger conferences than the Marriott draws on its own. When the Graduate opens, there will be more than 400 available rooms in the two hotels, which Warne said is the “critical mass” to draw larger gatherings. “It makes a lot of economic sense for the two hotels to work together,” McCollum said. “We look at it as partnership.”
One of the apartment project’s target audiences is recent UA graduates and young people who relocate to Tucson. The team believes they will be attracted to The Collective Apartments’ location and amenities. The facility will have nearly 6,000 square feet of interior lounge and gathering spaces.
“If you have the right type of development, they will want to stay in the core area,” Warne said. “With companies like Raytheon and Caterpillar, young professionals are moving here. This is where they want to be. That’s important for economic development. It has a ripple effect.”
Warne and the Marshall Foundation go back many years. He was part of the development team when Main Gate Square got under way in the early 1990s. Warne and longtime UA Senior VP for Business Affairs Joel Valdez worked closely with the foundation to map Main Gate’s future. Valdez approached the Marshall Foundation about the project because the UA was losing students to Arizona State University and Tempe’s attractions.
Not much has changed since Valdez and Warne mapped out the concept. “The configuration of the blocks is the same as it was 25 years ago,” Warne said.
There are 11 Graduate Hotels across the country, mostly in university towns. Each property pays tribute to its community by using colors, art and furnishings unique to the surrounding area. Count on seeing Wildcat iconography and scenes from the Sonoran Desert. “The hotel will be very UA-centric,” Warne said. “That’s what Graduate Hotels do. They become localized.”
The project has even deeper implications. The Marshall Foundation is a private organization that receives income from management of its commercial real-estate assets and gives back 5 percent of the fair-market value of its properties to nonprofits. It supports organizations involved in higher-education projects, scholarships, children and youth programs, arts and cultural organizations and pre-K-12 education. McCollum said the foundation is on track to donate $1.6 million this year thanks in part to this project. It gives out an average of $500,000 in scholarships to the UA each year.
“Everything we support is tied back to creating a whole person,” she said. “A young person can’t study if he or she is hungry or has dental issues. We want people to be able to dream and make sure they stay in school.”