(Note: This blog is an installment of the LISC Phoenix monthly series, “Communities on the Line.”)
On a sunny March afternoon in downtown Mesa, a rooster’s call is louder than a light-rail train’s toots, a retiree tends a plot of an urban garden wrapped in local artists’ murals, and a party of four repeat customers talks shop during a meal at a restaurant with Mesa roots running deeper than the business planted there four years ago.
Welcome to LISC-style economic development. The nonprofit’s focus on small business, transit-oriented development and creative placemaking to help build community are on full display at the Southside Heights commercial corner that is home to the popular República Empanada restaurant and the Mesa Urban Garden.
The northeast corner of First Avenue and Hibbert Street, just south of Main Street, is also an example of an effective “survive and thrive” community development strategy to help neighborhoods through the disruption of Valley Metro light-rail construction.
“Community development is community building,” said Terry Benelli, executive director of LISC Phoenix. “You accomplish that by building trust with residents and businesses of the neighborhood. I’m really proud of how things happened.”