Posted August 6th 2012 at 8:23 am by
in Planning 101

Engaging a Community for All Ages in Central City South Phoenix

In 2010, the residents of Central City South Phoenix (CCS), led by the non-profit Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, came together to create a living document known as the Quality of Life Plan.

This plan outlines neighborhood priorities for quality of life, and proposed strategies to realize those priorities, including the role of individual residents, neighbors, community agencies, and policy makers. CCS is a diverse “Community for All Ages” where all programs, services, and activities are developed both to connect generations, and provide opportunities for all people to have an active role in policy changes that promote quality of life.

CCS is approximately 5 square miles, southwest of Downtown Phoenix.  The Pacific Railroad tracks and Maricopa Freeway make the neighborhood’s northern and western  borders, the Rio Salado on the southern border and 16th Street  makes the eastern edge. Thirteen historic neighborhoods – which house 17,000 multicultural residents – are part of the City of Phoenix Enterprise Zone. While CCS has been neglected for many decades, recently it has surged as a community for opportunities related to economic development, new construction, and multidisciplinary partnerships.

This summer, CCS residents came together in interactive workshops designed to answer the broad question “How would you create your ideal community?”  The workshops served as a mechanism for leveraging the strong leadership capacity of local residents, stakeholders, and community partners to lead efforts in building the city, while at the same time preserving the cultural identity and rich history that CCS was founded on.  As you walk through the neighborhood, local ways and values can be appreciated. You can get to know the community’s Points of Pride, which include historical churches and parks where family events are celebrated, schools and multicultural restaurants with beautiful murals, and lively senior centers.

These photos (photos by The Sagrado) describe the workshops:

Engaging a Community for All Ages: Central City South Phoenix

Workshop Session 1: Senior residents gather materials for their ideal city.

Engaging a Community for All Ages: Central City South Phoenix

Workshop Session 1: Resident uses blocks to represent safety around her garden & parks.

Engaging a Community for All Ages: Central City South Phoenix

Workshop Session 2: Several children worked as a team to build their city, which includes beads representing a transportation system.

Engaging a Community for All Ages: Central City South Phoenix

Workshop Session 3: Families were joined by community partners in the final session.

Community members of all ages participated in designing their community, including structures, landscape, and services. Workshop sessions were lively, well attended by partners, stakeholders, and residents across ages, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.  Urban Planner James Rojas facilitated the community design process. At the workshop, residents shared experiences, ideas and thoughts about health and livability.  Understanding these perspectives fosters relevant community design, and empowers residents to participate in the design process.

By playing with recycled, colorful materials, community residents built a city for the future that captured their imagination and creativity. Through participatory methods, health and quality of life began with each individual choice made, based on memories, emotions, aspirations, and environment. General themes discovered through the interactive dioramas focused on priorities related to:

• Health

Recreation

Housing & Economic development

•  Transportation as key to navigating work, school, and social activities     

The first workshop took place at the Seniors Opportunity West (SOW) Center. Residents shared coffee, songs, and stories about communities designed for children and grandchildren. They spoke about the legacy they wanted to leave behind. Overall, older residents shared their vision for safe parks and areas for children to play, multi-cultural centers embracing neighborhood diversity, planting native plants and flowers, gardens, and sustainable resources.

The second workshop took place at a local church, and included children of different ages. Children talked about what they envisioned in the future for areas to play, more sports, gardens, and public resources including pools and maintaining the neighborhood’s library. Many used beads or other objects to demonstrate the need to strengthen transportation by expanding the current light rail system.

The third workshop took place at the community library, and included families and community partners.  Participants were specific about where public transportation is needed in the city, affordable health care services, public resources including homeless shelters, health and fitness centers.  They used various objects to share a need to preserve valued services through churches, the City’s Senior Centers, police and fire stations, and the Boys & Girls Club. Most residents (in all sessions) built community gardens to address the neighborhood’s “food desert” designation, and to promote health and wellness.

Residents shared a vision to inform policy around community design, safety, housing, transportation, and environmental protection. The workshops engaged residents of all ages to examine the links between community design and the QLP.  The next step will involve bringing together local policy leaders, stakeholders, partners, and residents to share a synthesis of resident recommendations that together, we can move from vision to reality.  This work is important in promoting policy intended to create environments that promote health across generations, as well as acknowledge people, priorities, community strengths and collective wisdom.

This project was funded through a Health and Aging Policy Fellowship (Adriana Perez, PhD, ANP-BC) supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies in partnership with the Healthy Aging Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Community partners included Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, Arizona State University College of Nursing & Health Innovation (Julie Fleury, PhD, RN, FAAN), Neighbors United, and CCS Strategy Stewards.  A special thank you to Wendy Rudick and City of Phoenix Seniors Opportunity West (S.O.W.); Vicky Anderson, Central Park and Primera Iglesia; Ruben Rodarte and I.G. Homes Boys and Girls Club; Mimi McCain and Phoenix Public Library-Harmon Branch Library.  Photos courtesy of The Sagrado.

One response to “Engaging a Community for All Ages in Central City South Phoenix”

  1. James Rojas says:

    I had an exciting time facilitating the workshops!