University leaders and dignitaries break ground at the ASU Center for Law & Society in downtown Phoenix, Nov. 13, 2014. Those pictured include law school Dean Doug Sylvester (third from left), retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (center) and ASU President Michael Crow (right).

University leaders and dignitaries break ground at the ASU Center for Law & Society in downtown Phoenix, Nov. 13, 2014. Those pictured include law school Dean Doug Sylvester (third from left), retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (center) and ASU President Michael Crow (right).

On a crisp and clear autumn day, Arizona State University officials yesterday welcomed a throng to downtown Phoenix to witness the groundbreaking for its new Center for Law & Society. On a temporarily closed Taylor Street, nearly 200 attendees, many garbed in maroon and gold, happily ate pastries, sipped coffee and smiled as speakers praised the university and touted the new building’s innovative features.

The building ultimately will be 280,000 square feet and cost $129 million to construct and launch. (According to the university, “This includes the cost of the construction, furniture, IT/AV equipment, and all of the soft costs associated with the project.”)

Fork-branded construction headgear awaits dignitaries at the ASU groundbreaking.

Fork-branded construction headgear awaits dignitaries at the ASU groundbreaking.

Speakers at the ceremony included ASU President Michael Crow, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Dean Doug Sylvester, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

President Crow said that the notion of a new kind of law building was conceived as immigration fights raged across Arizona. The topic, he said, is “one of the most important issues we face,” and yet the dialogue was “a rather uninformed series of debates.”

What was missing, he said, was the university’s projecting “our role as teachers and thinkers. We needed a new gathering spot,” he said, and it should be in downtown Phoenix, center of the state’s activities.

President Michael Crow speaks at the groundbreaking, Nov. 13, 2014.

President Michael Crow speaks at the groundbreaking, Nov. 13, 2014.

The building, Crow and other speakers reiterated, would be far more than a law school. It would be “a community center for engagement in law.”

According to the dedicated website, the structure will contain the law school as well as “two think tanks, multiple centers with cross disciplinary focus including the Lincoln Center, and the new ASU Alumni Law Group that will house the first teaching law firm associated with a law school.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called the site “ground zero for discussions of critically important issues.”

“This is about building the kind of community we want,” he continued. “It is about being embedded in the community.”

He added, “There is not an inch of space between the success of ASU as an enterprise and the future success of the City of Phoenix.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton signs a construction helmet as attorney Leo Beus looks on, Nov. 13, 2014.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton signs a construction helmet as attorney Leo Beus looks on, Nov. 13, 2014.

In her brief remarks, Justice O’Connor noted with pleasure that the building would be “open to the public and open for community events.”

President Crow acknowledged the struggles the legal profession faces today, but said the building signifies a new strategy.

“The older models have run their course. We’re forging the new way.”

As of that morning, Crow said, $34 million had been raised toward the building’s construction. ($10 million of that comes from attorney Leo Beus and his wife Annette. It is reportedly the largest single donation in the law school’s history. Leo spoke at the groundbreaking; more detail on his gift is here.)

Shovels await their users at the ASU groundbreaking, Nov. 13, 2014.

Shovels await their users at the ASU groundbreaking, Nov. 13, 2014.

Following the remarks, dignitaries and guests turned some dirt with silver-plated shovels. Meanwhile, attendees could gaze into the two-story-deep excavation where workers prepared footings and rebar for the building’s construction.

Besides the Center’s own website, you also can get more information from its project site, on which you can watch its ever-updating construction cam.

Click here to see more photos from the event at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page. Below is some more information provided by the university.

Screen-grab from the university's construction cam, Nov. 13, 2014; the groundbreaking occurred near the white tents at the top of the image.

Screen-grab from the university’s construction cam, Nov. 13, 2014; the groundbreaking occurred near the white tents at the top of the image.

“Construction on the Arizona Center for Law and Society began in July. The new building will be ready for classes by August 2016. The College of Law currently occupies its home of almost 50 years, Armstrong Hall, on the Tempe campus. ASU and the College of Law are committed to ensuring that the Armstrong name will be honored in the new law school.”

“The Arizona Center for Law and Society is being funded by the city of Phoenix—which is providing land and $12 million—construction bonds through Arizona State University and private donations. ASU Law has set a capital campaign goal of $50 million for contruction of the building. The College has raised more than $34 million so far.”

“‘This could not have been possible without the generosity of our alumni and connected legal communities,’ Dean Sylvester said. ‘We are particularly honored that long-time Phoenix attorney Leo Beus and his wife, Annette, recently made a $10 million contribution to the building’s capital campaign.’”

“The building is planned to be approximately 280,000 gross square feet with two levels of underground parking. It will have 18 rooms in which classes will be regularly scheduled, including one large lecture hall dedicated to university undergraduate education. Features of the new law school include a high-tech courtroom and an active learning classroom.”

“‘Not only will the new law school have state-of-the-art learning facilities, it also will provide our students with incredible opportunities,’ Sylvester said. ‘The downtown location is near the courts and the city’s legal district, which will prove invaluable to our students in the form of internships, externships and networking.’”

“The Ross–Blakley Law Library, currently located in a separate building near the law school in Tempe, will be moved to the new building. The library will occupy multiple floors and create the main circulatory structure of the center. The first floor of the building will have retail space consisting of a school bookstore and a café.”

“The Arizona Center for Law and Society also will include space for two think tanks, multiple centers with cross-disciplinary focus and the new ASU Alumni Law Group, the first teaching law firm associated with a law school.”

“The lead architects on the project are Ennead Architects and Jones Studios, with DPR Construction as the lead builder.”

 

Construction crane on the site of ASU's Center for Law & Society in downtown Phoenix.

Construction crane on the site of ASU’s Center for Law & Society in downtown Phoenix.