Category Archives: Community

Rusty Foley is an ‘Arts Hero’ and a bad chick

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing nearly two dozen people in the Valley and southern Arizona for the On Media Publications Arts Hero project. It’s been a labor of love during the past few months because I’ve met some of the coolest people doing amazing, righteous things for our communities.

Most of the honorees are new to me. But Rusty Foley, the Phoenix Arts Hero for January, is very familiar. She built a legacy long before she put her talent and energy into Arizona Citizens for the Arts. I knew her first as a very good journalist and then as a community mover-shaker while at SRP.

You can call Rusty a hero. I call her a bad chick. Not many people hold that high status in my book.

 

Camelback Pointe combines Housing First model with transit-oriented development

(This article is part of a LISC Phoenix series, “Communities on the LIne.” Photo by Mark Lipczynski Photography.) 

For city, state, and federal housing leaders, Camelback Pointe is part of a regional effort to end chronic homelessness. The 54-unit apartment complex has a single-person focus and on-site case managers and resident service specialists to address an array of needs.

For developer Native American Connections (NAC), the $13 million complex in the West Camelback Road commercial corridor represents an evolution of its groundbreaking permanent supportive housing work, combining the Housing First service model with transit-oriented development principles.

For urban renewal advocates, Camelback Pointe, a LEED Platinum certified development, is an example of converting a nuisance property into an architecturally clean community asset. It replaces an abandoned fast food restaurant site that had become a problem property, and now has an engaging, neighborhood-focused owner (NAC) who will have a 24/7 presence at the secure-community site.

But for its new residents, Camelback Pointe is simply and powerfully one thing: Home.

Andrea Hipps, NAC affordable housing specialist, said Camelback Pointe is not temporary or transitional housing. It is designed and programmed to meet chronically homeless individuals’ needs, both basic and complicated, as a first step to wellness, she said.

On Jan. 18, residents, local and state housing leaders, and community development partners, including LISC Phoenix, will celebrate the grand opening of Camelback Pointe, 1537 W. Camelback Road.

NAC has a 46-year history of providing supportive services in central Phoenix for urban Native Americans with substance abuse issue. Its focus on housing emerged from that work. NAC opened it’s first Housing First service model to end homelessness when it celebrated the grand opening of Encanto Pointe apartment complex in 2013. Input from Encanto Pointe residents emphasized the importance of transit to wellness.

Camelback Pointe’s location adjacent to Valley Metro light rail is intentional and so are its design features. For example, bicycles are the major source of transportation for residents, and so Camelback Pointe has ample bike storage and a bike repair shop.

In addition to internal 24/7 NAC services, residents live in what Hipps called a “naturally service enriched location.” Via light rail or bike, residents have easy access to a federally qualified health center in Mountain Park Health Center at the Chris Town YMCA, a branch of the public library, Solano Park, and a Fry’s grocery story.

Camelback Pointe is NAC’s fifth permanent supportive housing site with a single-individual focus. A sixth site is in the pipeline.

“In Arizona and in Phoenix in particular, there is a significant need for  permanent supportive housing in general and for singles in particular, and so I think we’re just filling a much-needed gap for the type of community member that needs more structure, that needs more investment to achieve housing stability,” Hipps said.

LISC Phoenix, which helped NAC purchase land for Camelback Pointe, is among those contributing to the investment in permanent supportive housing. Such investment requires a shift in thinking about the expenses associated with improving the housing and health conditions of chronically homeless people who are regular users of the emergency medical services and can revolve through criminal justice systems. The Housing First service model shifts investment into something that has long-term, positive effect on their lives and reduces costs in other systems of care.

“In a financing climate where it’s really hard to find someone to be ‘first in,’ LISC is willing to be first in,” said Diana Yazzie Devine, CEO of NAC. “That means the world to us as developers to have a partner that believes in our model, believes in our ability to perform long-term. It’s a real gift.”

LISC CEO Jones gets to heart of matters

LISC and its partners are experts in the business of comprehensive economic development. Maurice Jones, president and CEO of LISC, said the success stories in the Phoenix area and throughout the nation leave no doubt about that.

They’ve done the heavy lifting of revitalizing neighborhoods and forging healthy, sustainable communities. They’ve flashed genius in leveraging tools and resources for initiatives that create place, spur small-business activity and strengthen the local workforce.

But on Nov. 1, Jones used the occasion of the LISC Phoenix annual celebration of exemplary work in community development to talk about failure — specifically the effort needed to push toward a higher-degree of success with deeper meaning. Don’t lose sight of humanity in community development work, Jones said in urging leaders to look for the faces of loved ones in serving people in need.

“Sometimes in our work we get caught up in what’s the capital stack that we need, where does philanthropy play, where do banks play, where does local government play, where do we play,” Jones said. “The real issue is do I see the face of my daughter in that homeless guy. …The most important muscle in the work that we’re talking about now is the heart. It’s not the other stuff. We know how to do it. It’s whether we have the heart to do it.”

Jones was the featured guest at the 2017 LISC Phoenix annual breakfast at the Mesa Arts Center. More than 200 attended the celebration that honored Mountain Park Health Center – Tempe Clinic as an exemplary project; Nordstrom Bank as an exemplary partner and Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center as an exemplary collaborative.

Mesa Mayor John Giles expressed gratitude for LISC Phoenix’s work, particularly in improving the affordable housing condition in downtown Mesa and growing a strong arts community.

“Thank you for your support,” Giles said to LISC. “Thank you for helping us create places in our communities that are the hub of people and business and in the way we interject new economy, sometimes in old buildings. It’s exactly what my community needs and each of the communities that you serve so well.”

Jones said LISC has a particular interest in the Phoenix area for building more commercial corridors, helping individuals get prepared for the work that exists in the region, facilitating entrepreneur and small-business endeavors and “really investing in this robust arts community here, leveraging it for both creating place but also creating jobs.”

In addition to urging a recommitment to moving people’s hearts to maintain momentum on effective community development work, Jones said it’s important to have a solid partnerships across many sectors that can confidently navigate the ups and downs of pursuing strategic goals.

“For the work we do, the most important thing is heart and high-functioning team,” Jones said. “That combination gets us across the finish line every time.”

LISC CEO’s message

Maurice Jones gets to the heart of matters

The president and CEO of LISC, a champion of inclusive economic development, was the featured guest at the LISC Phoenix annual breakfast and awards ceremony on Nov. 1.

“Sometimes in our work we get caught up in what’s the capital stack that we need, where does philanthropy play, where do banks play, where does local government play, where do we play,” Maurice Jones said. “The real issue is do I see the face of my daughter in that homeless guy. …The most important muscle in the work that we’re talking about now is the heart. It’s not the other stuff. We know how to do it. It’s whether we have the heart to do it.”

 

 

The Red Book Magazine

‘Leap for Joy’

The Red Book, a resource for those involved in the social and philanthropic community, and azredbook.com launched a new magazine. The Red Book Magazine will have a single focus. The premier issue published in September 2017 focused on the arts. JDD Specialties was honored to write a feature, “Leap for Joy,” for the first issue of The Red Book Magazine

 

Coffee shops make a small world turn round

Coffee shops are an integral part of a city’s connective tissue. I like their place in my world. Highlights of just the past few days:

Giant Coffee: The mayor is there. He asks me if I miss daily journalism. (That’s an emphatic, “NO!”) I tell him it’s good to see him out and about. He says it’s better than staying inside Phoenix City Hall. He dashes off, in that trademark way he comes and goes. He left me me wondering where his next political home will be, but not in a political junkie way. It was more personal. 

The Refuge: That’s the site of a business meeting with someone who is the wind beneath powerful wings. There’s lots to discuss about a long-term project that could revolutionize the way we help people in need, how we make our communities stronger. But first things first: We take our time catching up on family news. She’s wearing a sharp, black dress, heels and pearls. I’m in a shirt, jeans and flats. We’re both in appropriate work attire to handle the business before us. That’s just how we roll in Phoenix.

First Draft: Even when I’m not there, I’m there. While at the gym, I get a text from a dynamo who I’m counting on to win the most interesting Arizona legislative race in 2018. She’s at Changing Hands bookstore where we’ve bumped into each other a couple of times when I’m working out of the adjacent First Draft. It’s to the point where she expects to see me every time she’s at the bookstore. I like that connection.

None of this happens without the excuse to drink coffee and tea and to be in interesting places. Coffee shops make you feel like the world is small and intimate, but they are also places that help you keep the big picture in sharp focus. There’s a certain magic in all of that.

Community development

A focus on urban living

JDD Specialties has expertise writing about community development, urban design and sustainable communities. An article for LISC Phoenix that recaps “Happy City” author Charles Montgomery’s May 2017 visit to the Valley of the Sun is an example of that work.

‘Happy City’ author urges push for safe, healthy transportation corridors

(Editor’s note: This blog is part of a LISC Phoenix monthly series, Communities on the Line.)

The Phoenix metropolitan area has a world-class freeway system and wide arterial streets laid out in a marvelous grid pattern to move people around and within a vast, car-dependent region. Residents can’t be happy.

Seriously. Neuropsychology, sociology and public health lessons about happiness tell us what we’ve done over 30 years to build communities and move cars in the region generally is at odds with creating environments for widespread personal satisfaction.

Urban design patterns throughout greater Phoenix discourage social connections vital to the desired human condition we call happiness or well-being, urbanist Charles Montgomery said during a recent visit. A growing body of scientific research tells us unhappiness invites social, health and economic miseries that stifle individual and community prosperity, he said.

“Cities really do make or break our well-being in their systems, through architecture, through public space,” Montgomery said. “They change how we feel, they change how we move and they change how we treat other people in ways most of us don’t even realize.”

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Artspace

Mesa Artspace Lofts will have good bones

(Editor’s note: This blog is part of a LISC Phoenix monthly series, Communities on the Line. The illustration is an artist rendering of Mesa Artspace Lofts.) 

In July 2015, business leaders, community development experts, arts advocates and city officials took a bus tour of a downtown Mesa area transformed by creative placemaking and transit-oriented development. John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Mesa Mayor John Giles was among them.

Tour stops highlighted strengths and challenges. Just south of Main Street, Giles pointed to a large, vacant lot where he hoped to see an affordable housing project built by Artspace, a nationally known developer of projects that support artists. “It has potential,” Williams quipped, as if assessing a fixer-upper. “Yes, it has good bones,” Giles replied, not missing a beat.

Mesa Artspace Lofts, a 50-unit, live-work apartment complex built especially for artists, had a ceremonial groundbreaking today (May 24). The permanent affordable housing complex at 155 S. Hibbert St. will have good bones. It’s also a transit-oriented development that will strengthen the beating heart of a disconnected neighborhood near the Valley Metro light-rail corridor.

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Creative economic development efforts grow success in downtown Mesa

(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.”

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Phoenix innovation district strategy in the works

The city of Phoenix has contracted with Mary Jo Waits & Associates to facilitate the work of the Innovation District Steering Committee, a group of forward-thinking business and civic leaders, and to develop a strategic plan to drive innovation and further invigorate the downtown area. JDD Specialties is thrilled to be a subcontractor on the year-long project.

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Horoscope tells the story of my life

“To be persuasive, you have to get the facts right — a no-brainer for you. Details and integrity are the spokes in your wheel. Now you just need to give those facts an emotionally compelling context and you’ll be set. — Horoscope, Aug. 25, 2016

Reading my daily horoscope is a guilty pleasure. A couple of times a year it’s exactly right. Like today.

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South Central Extension

Disseminating information

There are many stories to be told about the 5.5 mile South Central Extension of the Valley Metro light-rail system. An article about a Ford Foundation workshop on equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) for the underserved South Central corridor is the first of many articles JDD Specialties will write about the $700 million public transportation infrastructure project and its impact on residents and businesses.

South Central route

I’m proud of you, Chief Brown

13592818_488406514687605_6018476988885338428_nDallas Police Chief David O. Brown is a profile in courage. He is so grounded in reality. I’ve enjoyed watching him lead. What he said about the impossible demands placed on police officers as quoted in the New York Times is truth in boldface. We have so much work to do.

“Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem. Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.”

“Policing was never meant to solve all those problems,” he said.

Mesa tackles tricky billing questions in bold community medicine effort

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.20.09 AMCommunity paramedicine could revolutionize the business of healthcare delivery in Arizona. Several Arizona communities have launched fire service-based community paramedicine programs. Mesa has the largest, most developed program and is tackling thorny issues that address the viability of community paramedicine.

This recent Arizona Republic article explains the billing and reimbursement issues that are key to program financial sustainability.

A Vitalyst Health Foundation policy primer, written by JDD Specialties, provides an overview of the community paramedicine component of mobile integrated healthcare in Arizona and highlights six fire-service based programs. Vitalyst will profile at least six additional community paramedicine programs this year.

Arts and culture inspire new thinking about community development

(Written for LISC Phoenix. Photo is art adorning the Mesa Arts Center. )

The arts and culture component in comprehensive community development is more than a pop of color in a housing project or a hint of traditional neighborhood vibe. Individual and group stability, civic leadership, creative problem-solving, and hope all spring from intentional efforts to instill arts and culture in community revitalization.

The considered opinion of a panel of experts discussing creative placemaking at an April 6 event in Mesa made clear there is more to arts and culture in community development than meets the eye.

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All in a day’s work

Because your work requires a focus on transit-oriented development projects along the light-rail line and it’s a gorgeous day made fresh with spring showers.
 
Because two heads are better than one and you invite a friend along for an eastbound ride to see what’s happening along the route.
 
Because near the end of the line in Mesa is a local gem that serves delicious empanadas and maduros and you had promised your friend a treat.
 

Phoenix Indian School Legacy project inspires moves to the beat of a different drum

(Written by JDD Specialties for Terry Benelli, executive director of LISC Phoenix.)

Eskwel uma angkyahkya LISC.

“Thank you, it’s good you all came here today to the LISC event,” White Spider Girl said in Hopi language. What followed her greeting at a March 22 gathering of LISC executive directors in downtown Phoenix was a brief, compelling account in English of the 99-year history of the Phoenix Indian School site three miles away.

At the end of the boarding school story of tragedy and triumph, White Spider Girl, also known as Patty Talahongva, community development manager at Native American Connections, smiled and said she wished she had a drum roll for the exciting news she would share publicly for the first time: City-financed construction begins immediately to restore the historic Phoenix Indian School music building. Native culture will activate the public space in the spring of 2017.

Expect drumming and so much more.

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Wildlife center rescue

Championing a cause

JDD Specialties helped the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust with a multipronged effort to promote public support for the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center whose 22-year existence is threatened by a new neighbor’s complaints. Preserving endangered Mexican gray wolves is among the accredited sanctuary’s noble deeds. JDD Specialties wrote the Pulliam Trust news release that informed media coverage of the issue; a guest column that provided some inspiration for an editorial and an “advertorial” that encouraged donations to the center.(Photo by Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.)

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Native American center

Promoting cultural connections

LISC Phoenix was among the early supporters of a plan to turn the historic music building at Steele Indian School Park into a Native American cultural center. LISC Phoenix executive director Terry Benelli said the renovated center could be one of the region’s best examples of creative placemaking with cultural emphasis.

Arizona Health Futures

Reporting on public policy

JDD Specialties applies journalism skills to help clients explain complex issues, such as this Vitalyst Health Foundation policy primer on the community paramedicine component of mobile integrated healthcare. The February 2016 report required interviews with several leaders of Arizona fire departments and districts. Additional profiles on Arizona fire-service based community paramedicine programs will be posted on the Vitalyst website.

Transit-oriented development makes business leader John Graham drool

13-John-W.-Graham-240x300Developers are following John Graham’s lead in urban development. Central Phoenix is booming because of it.

Graham was the featured guest at the recent annual LISC Phoenix Annual Breakfast and Community Awards. Here’s my recap of the breakfast:

LISC Phoenix 2015 Annual Breakfast and Community Awards Recap

LISC Phoenix 2015 Annual Breakfast and Community Awards Recap

Longtime business leader John Graham developed a compulsive interest in urban infill development on opening day of the Phoenix area’s light-rail system in 2008. At that time, sprawling, greenfield suburban projects highlighted his real-estate company’s portfolio.

“What I noticed during that one ride was how much available land there is,” Graham said at the 2015 LISC Phoenix Annual Breakfast and Community Awards celebration. “As a developer, pathologically, it makes me drool a little bit figuring out what to do with it.”

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LISC Phoenix finds ways to spread news about vital work in underserved neighborhoods

LISC Phoenix executive director Terry Benelli is determined to spread the news about the nonprofit’s work in revitalizing underserved neighborhoods. I like helping her do that.

This article in the new issue of Green Living Magazine ( http://bit.ly/1kJiByS ) tees up the LISC Phoenix annual celebration and awards breakfast on Nov. 18 at the Phoenix Art Museum. John Graham, president and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings, is the featured guest. http://bit.ly/1Y1ViyW

Building on success

FoxxOfficialPortraitWEB-17894U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will join leaders of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa for an announcement today about LISC Phoenix and Raza Development Fund adding $30 million to a pool of transit-oriented development investment money.

In 2011, LISC Phoenix and Raza Development Fund created a $20 million transit-oriented investment fund to that has helped create more than 2,000 units of affordable housing and 205,000 square feet of retail and community space. The fund leveraged $387 million in total investment activity. The additional $30 million in the investment fund will build on that success.

Some of the projects built with support of the fund include The Newton commercial project near Central Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix, the Gracie’s Village mixed-used development in Tempe and the Encore mid-rise senior housing  project in downtown Mesa.

Secretary Foxx’s visit comes the day before the opening of the Metro light-rail extension in downtown Mesa and four days before Phoenix voters decide the fate of the Proposition 104 transit tax.

Death made life real

Dad's portraitI grew up 15 years ago today, the final day of watching Dad die. Until then, I was just going through the motions of adulthood.

Death made life real. It shook up my thinking about what I thought was important and worth chasing. Clarity of purpose brought calmness and strength.

Losing Dad hurt like nothing I experienced before or after. But 15 years later, I know that one of the greatest gifts from that experience was losing my fear of death. Life is easier when you’re not afraid to die.

Below is a Thanksgiving column I wrote about Dad in 2000, when I was still struggling to fully understand what losing him meant to my family. I’m still figuring that out.

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Grand Ave: Old is new again

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Grand Avenue (U.S. 60 on the map) has challenges and potential so large it shouldn’t be ignored. It deserves more attention than it gets and probably more public resources than are available. A recent Republic article describes its current condition. An editorial I wrote in 2012 (below) has some of the hopeful attitude I still hold for it today.

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