Oct 23, 2017

Modern Inviting Structure Devoted to Education "Collision Space" Set for Construction in Arizona

The work is set to begin next month on a building designed to serve as an inclusive space for teachers, community leaders, education experts, and policy makers to come together and work on ideas to improve college and career preparedness for elementary and high school students.

Images provided by Helios Education Foundation.  Architect:   Architekton 

“We call it collision spaces,” says Barbara Ryan Thompson of the meeting room emphasis that will be built into the Helios Education Foundation’s new 65,000 square-foot headquarters at 4745 N. 32nd Street in Phoenix.

The collision part comes when practitioners, thinkers, and others sit in one place and share ideas and sometimes competing perspectives on education.

“That’s when some of the best ideas emerge,” remarks Thompson, who is the executive vice-president and chief operating officer at the Helios Foundation. 

That foundation, whose roots can be traced to the student loan company Southwest Student Services which was transformed in 2004 into a philanthropic entity, has both a regional and national reputation for its commitment to improving educational opportunities for students at all income levels, regardless of the zip code they come from.

Helios currently has offices in leased spaces in both Phoenix and Tampa.

Images provided by Helios Education Foundation.  Architect:   Architekton

The $40 million project will go up on the outer edge of Phoenix’s historic La Celesta neighborhood, a quiet area of well-maintained, mid-20th century houses.

Of the new building’s planned 65,000 square feet, some 15,000 square feet will be designated as offices for Helios, with another 28,000 square feet set for partner space.

“We are envisioning that some of our nonprofit education partners that we already do work with will hope to reside with us also,” says Thompson.

One partner has been the State of Arizona.

Governor Doug Ducey, who attended a September groundbreaking for the new facility, noted that Helios has “worked hand-in-hand with us in the development and implementation of several breakthrough efforts that are transforming the educational landscape in Arizona.”

Those efforts include a program called the K-3 Quality Initiative, dedicated to improving third grade reading scores. Another visionary effort is the College Growing & Knowing, focused on student postsecondary success.

Images provided by Helios Education Foundation.  Architect:   Architekton

The new campus will go up on a two-lot site that was formerly the home of a small one-story office building that was flattened last month. A second 20,000 square foot building at the same site is also scheduled for demolition.

Designed by the Tempe-based Architekton, Helois’ campus structures will have a look reflecting both Arizona as well as the La Celesta neighborhood.

“When you think of Arizona, you think of the desert landscape,” says Thompson. But she also notes that there are plenty of trees and shrubbery in the residential blocks to the rear of Helios’ new site.

“One of the things we are additionally looking at is how to bring some of the Arizona copper feel into the building,” says Thompson.

The one-story, rectangular structure will be built with the idea that it may have a life span of anywhere from 75 to 100 years.

“We’re planning this building to be around long after we’re not here,” remarked Helios chairman Vince Roig to the Phoenix Business Journal in September.

That means a planned underground parking space could someday be transformed into offices if people three decades from now are using less cars.

“We are absolutely considering all of the energy efficiency components,” says Thompson, who adds, “We want to manage our western exposure. You know what the heat is like in the west. Our goal is to try to minimize that while also creating a light and airy space.”

Construction of Helios’ new building is expected to take around a year, with a completion date set for the end of 2018.


By Garry Boulard

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