This paper describes an unusual public-private partnership for real property development not involving typical infrastructure like bridges and roads. It addresses how communities like Mesa manage their way (adopting policies implicating land use and environmental sustainability principles via repurposing of buildings and sharing of additional community assets and “campus” leasing actions) to attract private sector higher education providers to establish a downtown as a node of intellectual stimulation, including cultural diversions. Etching the ivory tower environment into community centers sustains the quality of place. This quality attracts the “creative class,” which forms the core of leadership and entrepreneurship in America’s knowledge economy. Community interest in occupation-based approaches to urban economic development remains strong in this country.

This paper identifies the goals of higher education institutions attracted to this opportunity to expand their student base in a time of heightened competition from proprietary institutions capitalizing on career orientations. Having identified the “town’s” and “gown’s” respective objectives, this paper then analyzes the essential interests of each party to a leasing transaction and how these parties’ respective vital needs can be met in a commercial lease instrument. Finally, an appendix to this paper affords the reader evidence of essential leasing terms in establishing this unique form of higher educational cooperative. First, however, the paper describes what is at stake for a community’s downtown revitalization.