Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC)

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PRC is dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods by facilitating community improvement projects, such as Central City South, a community located immediately south of the Phoenix Downtown Business District and the Arizona State Capitol Mall. Eva Ordóñez Olivas, executive director and CEO for the PRC, discusses some of their projects and the importance of improving neighborhoods.

José Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. This phoenix revitalization corporation is dedicated to rebuilding neighborhoods by creating community improvement projects. The emphasis is placed on the revitalization of central city south, a community located south of the downtown phoenix business district and the Arizona state capitol mall. Joining me now to talk about some of the projects and work is Eva Ordóñez Olivas, executive director and CEO for the phoenix revitalization corporation. Eva, welcome to "Horizonte."

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Thank you for having me.

José Cardenas: We described the area, roughly, but we've got a map we want to put on the screen to give us a better sense exactly where we're talking about. We'll put it up and get a visual image. Can you describe what we're looking at?

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: The northern area we focus on is the railroad tracks and the Southern end is the Rio Salado. On the Eastern side, it's 16th street.

José Cardenas: It's a significant area.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: About 17,000 residents live there.

José Cardenas: As I understand it, about 66% of the public housing in phoenix is located there.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Yes.

José Cardenas: Historically, this has been a area where there's been significant concentrations of African Americans and later, Latinos.

José Cardenas: Right. Give us a sense of the history the place and how it came to be that way.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Actually, the community was designed that way. They built the public housing for the African Americans, which is the Henson village, it used to be the Henson projects and the public housing built for the Hispanic population. It was where we were permitted to live in those days when they were built.

José Cardenas: And the revitalization efforts that have taken place since then, initially had something to do with the hospital located there.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: PRC was to address the blight and crime in the area. And it was unsafe, they felt, for their employees to walk from the parking lot to the hospital and wanted to do something.

José Cardenas: This was located at seventh avenue and --

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Buckeye road. Phoenix memorial hospital, phoenix memorial--

José Cardenas: And Phoenix Memorial eventually goes away.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas:: Right.

José Cardenas: But the efforts continue through a number of entities and the one you work for.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Well, phoenix revitalization actually, it's a small nonprofit focused on the revitalization efforts. They were instrumental in acquiring and working with people to get sidewalks in the area and improving the lighting in the area and did some rehab, rehabilitation of homes early in their history. Recently, we focused on the communities for all ages initiative, which has been able to mobilize the neighborhood. Because the neighborhoods are very fragmented. 13 different neighborhood that's never really talk to each other and between the communities for all ages initiative and building the leadership pool and our neighbors united initiative which helped to develop a plan and how to drive that vision forward, that's the work we've done in the last, I'd say seven years.

José Cardenas: And you use different means of communicating with the community and getting them together, including a magazine or newsletter.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Right, we have a newsletter we actually pay a neighborhood association to hand-deliver. It goes out to 17,000 residents and we e-blast it to 800 to 1,000 businesses and stakeholders and it has stories about resources and information about history. Our current cover is about an autoparts company that's been in the community 69 years. There's a lot of stories. About 55-year marriage in one issue, and so it has amazing history.

José Cardenas: And the demographics of the area are still largely hispanic, but you mentioned when we were off the air, you have a significant Asian population. Having to translate the newsletter to.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: It's interesting. Both the memorial towers and the Henson Village senior towers, there's a growing Asian community there, there's currently three different dialects so we're working with students from asu. It's currently published bilingual but it's in english and spanish.

José Cardenas: Let's talk about one issue we have right now it's called a quality of life plan, a document prepared -- we'll show it on the screen. Tell us about that effort.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: The quality of life plan was a document we launched in 2010. Started the work on it in '08, through the Neighbors United Initiative and it was to have the people have a voice and document their vision and be able to work toward getting that vision, along with partners, so it's instrumental. They identified eight strategies to transportation and individual development but what was interesting was the most important thing they said was the golden threads, the ability to connect to each other and they felt they can connect and work together, they can make anything happen.

José Cardenas: And they're also insisting that they have connections to the powers that be. They're so close to city hall and the state capitol. As I understand it, there's one initiative that you're particularly proud of.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Yes, we're excited. We met with the strategy stewards and they felt they needed a day or moment to be able to say, we are here, we will be counted and we have influence, so they're going to host a mayor's debate on august 4th, friendly house has volunteered to host the site for us. We're very excited. We have many supporting partners but I think since I've known, the first time they'll have a mayor's debate in this area of town.

José Cardenas: We want to touch on at least one other area, quickly, and that's the community garden.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Oh, yes.

José Cardenas: We have images we want to show. Give us the history of that.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: This particular garden is the garden at hope six. We're partners with the City of Phoenix, Buckeye Road. But we have gardens at Dunbar school, SOL, Seniors Opportunity West and we're working with valley Christian Center on a garden on Hadley and we have a staff person graduating from the master gardener and hope to have a co-op between our gardens to provide fresh produce in this area.

José Cardenas: Hope six was an effort to take out of worst of the slum, the rundown buildings in the area and replace them with new buildings?

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Yes, it's a national project and they come in and level a project and rebuild with mixed income housing. You it used to be public housing now it's mixed income and tax credit and market rate.

José Cardenas: One last area of discussion because it ties in in a different way to one of the other topics on tonight's show. Which is foreclosure. The area you work in benefited from the slowdown in the economy.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Yes, it was interesting. When the economy was so high and housing so expensive, we had investor developers, people at our door every day, trying to find out about the community and where were the lots and homes they could buy and we were trying to protect our seniors and when it crashed, it was like a time out for us. We have some great property. We're in a great location and we have a lot of people who want that property. So it was a time out for the community to get the power it needs to have in order to instead of being overwhelmed by development, be part of the development.

José Cardenas: Eva Ordóñez thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to tell us about this great story.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas: Thank you.

Eva Ordóñez Olivas:Executive Director and CEO, Phoenix Revitalization Corporation;

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