Category Archives: Phoenix

Artistic intellectual

Painting with beads

This personality profile about Marlena Robbins is about how she puts all of herself into her work. And there is so much to the person that she is. She is an artist with a keen intellect and a biding respect for indigenous culture. (The article appeared in the holiday 2019 issue of The Red Book magazine.

(Photos by Tina Celle.)

 

Trellis branches out with new townhouse project

(Note: This article is part of “Communities on the Line,” a LISC Phoenix series on transit-oriented development in the Valley.) A ¾-acre residential lot in the West Camelback Corridor is long past its prime as a single-family-home property. As fate and determination have it, that’s a very good thing for 20 future homeowners and a neighborhood experiencing revitalization spurred by light rail.

Trellis broke ground in May on a townhouse development in central Phoenix at 1617 W. Colter St. Trellis @ Colter is a rare, unique new home ownership opportunity within the Valley Metro light-rail corridor where thousands of units of multifamily rental housing have sprung up along the 28-mile route in recent years, including projects underway to the south and west of the townhomes.

But for Trellis, which has a long history in single-family home lending and building, it didn’t make sense to put three or four small units on the lot near the 19th Avenue and Camelback Road light-rail station. Trellis delved into density options for home ownership because of the lot’s proximity to light rail, its central city location and because of all the commercial activity occurring on Camelback Road. Continue reading

Time, love do amazing things

One year already since my mom died. Time has done its thing, managing to be trippy and relative at once.

How can a year have passed when I remember that day in far greater detail than I remember yesterday? And how could it be that ONLY a year has passed when I have learned and lived so much?

My dear friend, who lost her mom less than a week after I lost mine, says she has aged in the last year. It’s a physical thing for her. For me, it’s more mental and emotional. I have matured at a rate that I haven’t experienced since Dad died nearly 19 years ago. The change back then, I’ve always felt, set me up for success in middle age. If old age is in my future, I think I’m better able to handle it now. Time did that and I’m grateful.

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When the shoe is on the other foot

I have been asking questions for more than 30 years. I know a good answer when I hear one. Now I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that process.

VoyagePhoenix was kind of enough to share my story of founding JDD Specialties. It was a fun Q&A and an honor to be included in the online magazine’s popular “Phoenix’s Most Inspiring Stories” feature.

Here’s a link to the article posted on Oct. 19: Meet Jennifer Dokes of JDD Specialties 

 

 

 

 

LISC, Kiva help local shop owners gain critical access to capital

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the LISC Phoenix website.)

Perodin Bideri, a west Phoenix shop owner who was raised in refugee camps in Tanzania, and Christy Moore, a veteran Valley nonprofit executive who is on a mission to disrupt the landromat industry, are in the same boat.

Both are seeing things — opportunities, specifically. Both have a brand of ambition that’s engaging and inspiring; it invites participation.

And both are navigating waves of success that often come with access to capital made possible through a partnership with nonprofits LISC and Kiva, an online crowdfunding platform. For as little as $25, a lender can join a fund that allows borrowers to receive loans of up to $10,000.

Access to capital is a major hurdle for emerging small-business owners. They don’t qualify for credit from traditional lenders. If they do secure loans, they come with high interest rates and fees.

With a Kiva loan, borrowers pay zero interest and no fees. That got the attention of Bideri, owner of B&R African Styles.

“When I was introduced to Kiva, it was a great opportunity to open doors that grow my business,” Bideri said. “To get a loan with zero interest? I was in.”

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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.

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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.”

 

 

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.

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

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.

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.

Answering the call

Briana, a best friend of my daughter, is a first responder. She is a freshly minted teacher beginning her first professional year of school. She’s running toward a crisis. It’s not a burning building; it’s Arizona’s public education system.

Teachers have left Arizona classrooms in droves, causing a critical shortage of educators. Rare is the school district that begins this academic year with a full complement of certified teachers. Many meet classroom needs with long-term substitute teachers.

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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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