GCU commercial hub to have $670M annual impact

A corner in a West Phoenix neighborhood that had been a hotbed of crime for years will now pump $670 million into the local economy each year as a commercial hub, thanks to Grand Canyon University.

GCU has transformed the northeast corner of 27th Avenue and Camelback Road from what was once a run-down hotel, sex shop, swap mart and used car lot into a 325,000-square-foot business and innovation hub.

A study by Elliott D. Pollack & Company has determined that the renewed corner will generate an estimated $670 million a year in economic activity. The construction alone of the facilities on the corner resulted in $170 million in economic output in 2016, the study found.

The 37-acre site is just off the Interstate 17 and the light rail could eventually make it to the area.


The 155-room hotel will feature a restaurant and students within GCU’s hospitality school will be able to work there and gain real world experience. (Photo by Jesse A. Millard)

This West Phoenix neighborhood had been a middle class area that had gone in dire straits over the years. Ten years ago GCU only had 900 students and a 100-acre campus, but planned to expand and help the area in the process. Now the school boasts 17,500 ground students and a 300-acre campus, including this commercial hub.

When GCU had determined its business plan to expand and invest into the school, it could have left the area to some place more prosperous, said Brian Mueller, president and CEO of Grand Canyon University.

“As a christian university we decided it was our greater mission to put the university here,” Mueller said. “We could be an economic stimulus that would put a stake in the ground and start pushing back the other way.”

Mueller said it was a big risk putting the school here, but it’s amazing what has happened to the area over the last few years.

GCU even had a $1 million contract with the Phoenix Police Department to help keep the area safer, which has helped, since crime in a two-mile radius around the University has dropped 30 percent, according to the school.

The school plans to renew the contract again to continue safety efforts in the area.

And the renovations to the formerly shabby northeast corner of 27th Avenue and Camelback Road are looking good, a stark contrast from its former self. 

GCU purchased the 155-room hotel, upgraded its rooms, added a resort-style pool and a 300-seat restaurant. Student’s from GCU’s hospitality school are working at both the hotel and restaurant.

Then there’s the new four-story office complex for 2,700 employees. The school needed new office space, Mueller said, for its student service departments. Previously those 2,700 employees were in leased offices in Northern Phoenix and Tempe.

The former swap mart will be turned into a 131,031-square-foot office building that will be home to an innovation center for the school.

GCU’s New Business Development Center will work out of that facility, and will host free seminars, resources and consulting for existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the area.

“This development is part of our broader vision to return the area into a safe, middle-class neighborhood, with good-paying jobs, A-rated schools and K-12 students excited about the prospect of going to college, Mueller said.