Yuma, Arizona -  A university in downtown Yuma? It’s an intriguing thought – and also a possibility.

The City of Yuma invites you to view the conceptual plan for the area south of Giss Parkway and generally between Madison Avenue and the Union Pacific Railroad line at an open house to be held 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 in room 190 of City Hall, One City Plaza (3rd Street between 1st and Madison avenues).

For decades, the 50-plus acres just south of Giss Parkway that once housed the bustling Southern Pacific railyard have remained vacant and underutilized. The City of Yuma, in an attempt to spur revitalization of the area, secured EPA Brownfields grants to do planning and to work with property owners on a voluntary and cooperative basis to do assessments.

Initial results from this process show the area is ready for development and redevelopment. “Often, there is more ‘perceived’ contamination than real,” said Bobette Bauermann, project planner.

Now the City has developed a new vision for the site which would meet a crucial need for Yuma’s economy and help energize the downtown. The plan contends that the Yuma community needs a 4-year university in order to cultivate home-grown talent for the jobs of the 21st century and to attract industries that need that talent. The campus is envisioned as an urban campus with density to complement the historic downtown.

“Bringing a university to Yuma within the next 10 to 15 years would draw students from a large region,” Bauermann said.

The area, referred to in previous official City meetings as Old Town South, is directly adjacent to downtown Yuma. City officials and project team members believe a university campus would create synergy with the downtown to create a vital urban hub.

“The City of Yuma is committed in the long-term to this 10-to-15-year vision of a downtown university, and sees it as a collaborative effort among many community partners to bring this vison to reality, and not solely a City of Yuma initiative,” said Yuma Mayor Douglas J. Nicholls. “Likewise, the campus could feature one university or could involve multiple universities, providing complementary academic services to the region.”

While the idea is potentially exciting, it’s a long way from becoming reality, Bauermann cautioned.

“This is a conceptual plan only which needs to have the active involvement and cooperation of the property owners,” she said. “We believe that if we can amass the land for a university, it will serve a greater purpose for Yuma.”