Category Archives: Urban revitalization

Communities on the Line

A new series for LISC

In 2015, LISC Phoenix added an economic development component to its strategic plan to revitalize neighborhoods. In 2016, the nonprofit identified four corridors along the Valley Metro light rail line that could benefit from LISC-style comprehensive economic development efforts. In 2017, LISC Phoenix, with the help of JDD Specialties, will highlight the challenges, opportunities and successes of those corridors through a series called, Communities on the Line. 

LISC push on economic development strikes a chord

Long-awaited redevelopment heating up in Apache Blvd. corridor

Creative economic development efforts grow success in downtown Mesa

Bazaar days make a world of difference at 19th Ave. and Camelback

Mesa Artspace Lofts will have good bones

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

With new clinic, MPHC no longer hidden treasure in Tempe

There’s more than meets the eye on West Camelback Road

Visitor center enriches public understanding of indigenous people

NAC combines power of housing first and TOD at Camelback Pointe

A second chance for McDowell Road’s Miracle Mile

 

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.”

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

Developing strategy

JDD Specialties is a subcontractor in a Mary Jo Waits & Associates consulting project to help a city of Phoenix steering committee develop a strategy for a downtown innovation district. The incomparable Waits was the principal consultant for some of the most notable studies and effective strategic plans at the state and local levels, including “Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona’s Future,” “Which Way Scottsdale?” and “Downtown Phoenix: A Strategic Vision and Blueprint for the Future.”

(Image courtesy of Pixabay.)

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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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

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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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.

Grand Ave: Old is new again

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 2.10.53 PM

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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