November 12 2013

Greening Lower Grand Avenue: Community Visioning Gone Right

In a city infamous for auto-oriented development, muddled identity, and isolated suburbs, one neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona has epitomized what it means to spark community revitalization. Lower Grand Avenue is a mile-long corridor adjacent to the city’s downtown. Like most of the urban core, the neighborhood has a long history of disinvestment; however, in the past decade, things have begun to turn around. What once was a corridor of industrial buildings is now an assortment of unique art galleries, retail spaces, and cafes. Several adaptive reuse projects have revitalized unused spaces and the neighborhood’s street festival is an annual city highlight.

Grand Avenue Street Corner, Phoenix, Arizona

Lower Grand Avenue has become an illustration of green infrastructure and community-oriented public space. In 2011, the City of Phoenix was chosen as one of five U.S. capitals to receive federal design assistance through Greening America’s Capitals. This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program helps state capitals create neighborhood visions using environmentally-friendly designs. The purpose is not solely to benefit local communities; but also to promote sustainable designs throughout the cities’ respective states and to the millions who visit U.S. capital cities every year.

Grand Avenue Road Art, Phoenix, Arizona

The new EPA program is rather atypical for federal aid. Instead of providing direct funding based on formulas, the EPA enlists experts in landscape architecture and urban planning to help the city create a vision based on smart growth principles and green design. The final deliverables are intended to engage city staff and community leaders in the on-going planning process and move sustainability forward in the community.

The Greening Lower Grand Avenue visioning process began with a site walk to identify key opportunities and was followed by a three-day community workshop facilitated by design experts. Key stakeholders such as local residents and members of the Grand Avenue Merchants Association, participated in the workshop, which produced remarkable ideas for an environmentally, socially, and economically resilient district. Less than a year after the vision was completed, the implementation phase began. Key green infrastructure features include:

  • Rain gardens and bioswales to capture stormwater;
  • Green painted bike lanes to reduce ambient temperatures; and
  • Shade trees to enhance the pedestrian experience.

Green-painted bike lanes, Phoenix, Arizona

The final vision also includes future steps to strengthen the Avenue’s presence, such as improved building façades, public art, and new business growth.

Has your community participated in any visioning activities? What are other ways design professionals and residents can interact to produce community-oriented, sustainable spaces?

Credits: Images by Lynn Coppedge. Data linked to sources.

Lynn Coppedge

Lynn Coppedge graduated from Arizona State University's Master of Urban and Environmental Planning program Currently working as a Sustainability Planner for the City of Lakewood in Colorado, Lynn aspires to advance sustainability in the community of Lakewood through creative planning, programs, outreach, and events.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 at 9:29 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Greening Lower Grand Avenue: Community Visioning Gone Right”

  1. Grid Bike Share Says:

    We’re so happy to be bringing beautiful, green bike-share bikes to ride on the green bike lanes!

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