community | Civic

Spaces of Opportunity

A Community Urban Farming Gathering Place

Roosevelt School District, Desert Botanical Gardens, Tiger Mountain Foundation, Orchard Learning Center, Orcutt | Winslow, DSGN AGNC, CORE Construction, and many other community members and organizations have formed a partnership and bond with a group of people to truly bring change within an impoverished area and to feed life to an otherwise abandoned plot of land. The teamwork that has created Spaces of Opportunity proves the success of how people can work together to facilitate real change in a community. We at Orcutt | Winslow have been a key piece into creatively designing a space that will work efficiently by using natural systems as well as creating built architectural features that have a sense of place for the community and fit within the context of the surrounding neighborhood.

Bringing the Project to Life

Roosevelt School District started out with an unused piece of land slated for a new school decades earlier. Since then, demographics and community changes made that plot of land unfeasible for a new school and the school district did something that no other school district in Arizona and perhaps even the country has done with excess land. It gave the land back to the community to empower its children and neighbors to physically plant and metaphorically grow relationships for the benefit of everyone. Roosevelt School District planted the seed for Desert Botanical Gardens, Tiger Mountain Foundation and Cultivate South Phoenix to create a place of culture, learning, sustenance and a place of example. Those three manage the land planting, harvesting, educating and uplifting South Phoenix. Orcutt | Winslow, DSGN AGNC and Core Construction all helped to carry out the vision by donating expertise, time and passion to the project. DSGN AGNC carried everyone through initial visioning meetings and gathered community input on the built environment. Orcutt | Winslow carried design forward and moved the project locally through the design development, permit, review, and construction processes while Core Construction is bringing the vision into reality.

Project Design

Spaces of Opportunity will provide a model for a new approach to sustainable community farming design. The goal is to provide access to land and facilities that empower the users to cultivate a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle with a community garden and farm.

Existing Site

In October of 2015 and again in May of 2015 over 40 members of the community, the CUSP collective and the design team came together to discuss the physical planning of the Spaces of Opportunity site. Over that time the stakeholders assessed the site, targeted the possibilities, and their overall goals.

Throughout the design process several design charrettes conducted by the respective groups involved were held and members of the community were invited and came to voice their concerns, problems and hopes for a better future. Problems identified by the community included traffic calming, graffiti, poorly maintained public spaces, not enough trees and access to food destinations being too far. Environmental conditions were poorer in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site than other major vacant lots in the community, which were located just a few miles away. Local community activist Darren Chapman jokingly refers to this area, bounded by the Salt River to the north and Baseline Road to the south, as the “land that time forgot”. Talking to another lifelong resident of the area, nothing has changed in the area north of Baseline Road since the 1970’s.

Aside from the charrettes, scholarly research was conducted to further assess local problems and conditions. In the research, it was found that the South Phoenix area has lower than citywide averages in tree canopy cover and higher than average amounts of vacant lands, asthma/respiratory illnesses reported, diabetes rates, and is surrounded by particulate matter hotspots. The South Phoenix area is also known as a food desert making access not only to quality recreational facilities a necessity, but also access to healthy, local foods. Further research was gathered through first-hand experience of the South Phoenix area. The design team conducted a windshield survey and a walking audit through a few of the neighborhoods. The team also spent numerous hours working in the existing community gardens in the area, where we gained insight into the needs and problems residents face, first hand. In response to the demands and needs of the community, we have designed a destination for the community to fill numerous needs on one site serving as a model for sustainable urban farming.

The design of the canopy structure and the restroom building are to mimic elements with in the Sonoran Desert to tie this space to its context. Using robust materials like metal panels and masonry construction we are designing a facility that is robust, efficient and beautiful. It was important throughout the process to create a space that feels original and unique. We strived to make a site plan that allows a productive farmers market to thrive and grow.

A Celebration of Culture

Spaces of Opportunity is a community project that is giving the citizens and students surrounding it an opportunity to learn, act, support and prosper around a public amenity for the absolute good of the community. We at Orcutt Winslow have been proud to be a part of this incredible project and hope that it will empower the locals to thrive off of the land to create jobs, educate and enable a new generation to live a healthy life through quality design and planning.

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