Fast-growing University of Phoenix is expanding its hometown presence.

The 34-year-old private education giant plans to soon occupy 439,070 sq ft inside two new midrise office and classroom buildings in Tempe in suburban Phoenix. Metro Commercial Properties, Tempe, is developing the build-to-suit project along with San Antonio-based USAA Real Estate Co.

The six- and 10-story buildings are going up on 11.33 acres inside the 170-acre mixed-use, master-planned Fountainhead Corporate Park near Priest Drive and Broadway Road. There is also a six-level, 1,885-space precast concrete parking structure. The concrete, post-tensioned, cast-in-place office buildings and accompanying garage are being built by Tempe-based Sundt Construction Inc., as are the tenant improvements.

�To be constructing a 440,000-sq-ft office project given the economic climate in Phoenix is extremely rare,� says Marty Hedlund, Sundt Southwest District manager. �It�s a testament to our performance in past projects for University of Phoenix and USAA Real Estate Co.�

One of those past projects for the university was Riverpoint Center in Phoenix. Riverpoint was awarded Best Office Building in Southwest Contractor�s Best of 2008 Arizona awards.

University of Phoenix, North America�s largest private education provider, has signed a long-term lease to occupy the buildings and garage in Tempe. Besides offering online education, the University of Phoenix, a unit of publicly traded Apollo Group Inc. (Nasdaq:APOL), offers high school, undergraduate and graduate-level programs in over 200 locations across 42 states.

Fountainhead Office Plaza �represents one of the few shovel-ready sites in the airport/north Tempe submarket that can accommodate this large University of Phoenix requirement,� Patrick Althoff, Metro Commercial Properties president, said in a statement. �The allowable site density, prime freeway visibility and proximity to existing University of Phoenix facilities make Fountainhead a logical location to facilitate the growth of the university.�

The $70-million project is located 4 mi southeast of the University of Phoenix�s headquarters. Construction began in October with the demolition of three existing single-story masonry office buildings built in the late 1970s and early 1980s.