LISC Phoenix

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Executive Director of LISC Phoenix, Teresa Brice, talks about her organization that, for the past 20 years, has been helping Valley residents transform neglected neighborhoods into areas of pride by way of financial aid, technical assistance and advocacy.

Ted Simons: For the past 20 years LISC-Phoenix has been helping Valley residents transform neglected neighborhoods into areas of pride by way of technical assistance and advocacy. Here is its executive director, Teresa Brice.

Ted Simons: Did I get that right?

Teresa Brice: You did a great job, a great way to capitalize what we've been doing for the last 20 years in the Phoenix area.

Ted Simons: Community Development Financial Institution, what does that mean?

Teresa Brice: It's a complicated name, like ours, lock initiative sensitive corporation. We bring a variety of tools to help neighborhoods build communities.

Ted Simons: That makes you a mission-based lender.

Teresa Brice: You can think of us as a bank or a foundation, because we do bring financial resources in the form of loans and grants. But I think the thing that distinguishes us, we don't simply put money on the table and walk away and hope for the best. We bring our skills and expertise and put them at the disposal of local residents and local nonprofits.

Ted Simons: I've heard you described as the United way of community development.

Teresa Brice: That is true. We have a variety of local partners. We distribute funds to the communities through that network of partners.

Ted Simons: We talk about creating a place of pride in certain neighborhoods. And creating a there there. How do you get a there there? How does it work?

Teresa Brice: You have to capture a sense of community. For every neighborhood that's different. In historic neighborhoods you've got a history, you've got a sense of pride, you've got a continuity there. In the newer neighborhoods, especially because Phoenix has grown so quickly and other communities, as well, it's hard to put a point on what exactly makes them unique. What we tend to do is try to focus on those neighborhoods that are really at a tipping point that, perhaps have experienced this investment in the past. Because of a rich culture and a sense of pride and identity, we want to put those aspects to work in building better neighborhoods.

Ted Simons: How do you get enough people to agree on what does capture that? Sounds like a lot of compromise and group think going on there.

Teresa Brice: Exactly. That's a sense of what democracy is. We ask the residents to come together. We don't parachute in from on hay and say, we have all the answers. We ask you to meet your neighbors, the business owners, the churches, the schools, the stakeholders that make up your neighborhood. Get together and decide on your own future. It's a long process, it's taken 18 months and our two target neighbors, we're continuing the process in May. That's just finalizing their quality of life plan.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask where, are those target neighborhoods?

Teresa Brice: In Phoenix it's Central City South, immediately south of the downtown area, roughly bounded by Jackson down to the freeway, I-17, Central Avenue, 19th Avenue. And then the Golden Gate neighborhood along McDowell between 35th and about 45th Avenue.

Teresa Brice: In Mesa it's the Washington-Escobedo neighborhood.

Ted Simons: I know as well that there is a focus on transit-oriented development, too. Now, these two neighborhoods don't sound like they are all that close to light rail or perhaps Mesa area will be close to light rail. Talk about the transit projects.

Teresa Brice: All the neighborhoods are within a currently planned transit extension or are in the planning process for that. Central city south is currently undergoing a study to help them decide whether or not to extend transit down south central Avenue that. Runs along the eastern boundary of central city south. The golden gate neighborhood, the west extension is going to be running along very close to McDowell, their southern boundary. In Mesa, Washington neighborhood is within a half mile of the new extension that just broke ground last week.

Ted Simons: How do you get into tomorrow figure out what they want and need there, and get commercial interest, as well? One of the promises of light rail is that it will develop commercial industries, businesses, restaurants, the whole nine yards along the route. How does that work?

Teresa Brice: Economic development is really critical. That's what these neighborhoods by and large are really lacking. They are interested in joining arms with businesses and the potential businesses that could benefit from having light rail. The whole point of light rail that is it sparks redevelopment. That's exactly what we need. Part of our job is to help neighbors understand being a transit oriented community means you have to look at increased density, increased community facilities, whether or not you're going to locate grocery stores, child care facilities, community health clinics, all of these things add to the sustainability of a neighborhood. It requires conversation, it requires compromise and give and take. Many of these older neighborhoods were not built for higher density, they are not used to anything more than a couple of stories. That's the transformation that's going occur along the light rail.

Ted Simons: How do you get elected officials on board with certain ideas when they may be saying, can't afford it right now?

Teresa Brice: Focusing on the transit development that is we're leveraging an existing public infrastructure investment. That's what's really critical. Phoenix and our other cities I want valley have the choice. As we continue to grow, do we continue to spend money further and further away from the huge public infrastructure investments.
Ted Simons: It's something called define legacy I was looking at, as well, what is that all about?

Teresa Brice: We were here about a year ago June 1st when we launched the TOD, LISC bringing 10 million, our partners bringing 10 million. Certain projects have already begun to move forward. Define legacy completed construction, and opened their doors last year. Now they are almost completely rented up.

Ted Simons: Interesting. I know when we talked last time the idea of building and renovating along light rail lines was key. Say that I'm along Washington street but it's either empty warehouses or apartment buildings, nothing going on there. Do I come to you? Or do you come to us? How do we get a there there?

Teresa Brice: There are several avenues. In the case of central city south they have worked for 18 months on a quality of life plan. They have set out a very broad agenda including things like health, transportation, housing, economic development. There are lots of ideas and lots of projects. They can bring us a project to us and say, help us find a developer, somebody that can understand how to put this project together, work with the neighborhood, get our input and make this successful. The city's own multiple acres along the land. The city of Tempe would like to see a certainly area developed. Or a developer may already own a piece of land and they want to us help bring additional public funds, low-income housing tax credits or bond financing to help make their project successful. Our job is to be able to take those pieces and put them together into a whole that will make the community proud.

Ted Simons: Sounds like encouraging work and you've got some work completed already in the pipeline. Congratulations, good to speak with you.

Teresa Brice: Thank you so much, I appreciate it

Teresa Brice:Executive Director, LISC Phoenix;

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