Phoenix Project to Turn Vacant Lots into Community Spaces


The PHX Renews project will have urban gardens run by a number of organizations in Phoenix. Photo: Keep Phoenix Beautiful/PHX Renews

Many urban areas face the dilemma of what to do with vacant lots, and Phoenix is no exception. According to a report from 2000 by the Brookings Institution, vacant lots make up 42.6 percent of land in the city.

To combat this problem, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton came up with a plan to turn these empty areas into temporary community spaces that include things like gardens, educational demonstrations and public art.

This project, called PHX Renews, will ultimately benefit community members and landowners alike in a way that ensures no space goes to waste.

“There’s great research showing two things: access to green space decreases diabetes and obesity per capita, but access to green space within a quarter mile also increases home prices upwards of 12 percent,” Colin Tetreault, senior sustainability policy adviser at the City of Phoenix, told Earth911.

The first vacant lot being tackled by the project is a 15-acre space located at a busy intersection just north of Phoenix’s downtown. The property is owned by the Barron Collier Companies, and it has been vacant for over twenty years.

The company has agreed to let the PHX Renews project use its land for three years, but with the understanding that the owner may ask to have the property vacated with 180 days notice. That may sound problematic, but it actually aligns well with the goals of the project.

“The whole point is that it’s temporary, it’s exportable, it’s replicable, it’s scalable,” Tetreault said. “If in the event the developer or the private landowner now wants to do a thing [on the property], we’ve activated something well ahead of time. We’ve brought a lot of care and cohension to [the area], and it’s actually the hope that PHX Renews can act as the spark or impetus for smarter and more sophisticated development solutions.”

Click through to see what sorts of projects will be going on at PHX Renews.

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