What was once an empty 15-acre lot at Indian School Road and Central Avenue is now filled with tractors tilling the land for farming and flexible outdoor classroom space for local schools. Once a former Phoenix Indian School is now PHX Renews, the largest transformation of vacant land into useable public space in the country.
Just a few weeks ago, I joined council members, community leaders and nearby schools to open the project. It was so exciting to meet refugees who are using the land for farming to support their families and help plan how the autistic community will use the space for therapy programs.
Even better is how this project will transform our urban core.
When I became mayor, I saw the negative impact vacant lots have on our community and businesses — a startling 43 percent of land in Phoenix sits vacant. So, we got to work to bring businesses, community members and nonprofits together to transform these lots into new opportunities. These projects are sustainable and temporary because the end goal is to attract better redevelopment and advance community togetherness.
PHX Renews is the product of this vision — a creative partnership that brings no additional cost to the city since the land is on loan from Barron Collier Companies. All design and building services are provided by Smith Group/JJR Design Firm and the project is managed by Keep Phoenix Beautiful.
See for yourself what’s happening now at PHX Renews:
• Urban community farming supporting local nonprofits, communities and refugees.
• Outdoor education space for local schools focusing on environmental science programs with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Office.
• Large community art displays and cultural projects.
• Creative use of play and social spaces.
This is just the start. PHX Renews will serve as a prototype of how other vacant properties can be transformed into great public spaces across the city. I’m working with the City Council now to streamline the process for more projects like this in downtown Phoenix and in the light rail areas.
But, most importantly, we need your ideas on how your community can work together with local businesses and groups to transform vacant lots in your neighborhood.
Visit phxrenews.org to submit ideas, and get involved to transform our city for the better.
Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011.