Last November, members of the commercial real estate industry helped turn a dilapidated, World War II housing facility into one where a community can thrive.
Just a few months prior to the completion of Valley Partnership’s 2013 community project, the Escobedo at Verde Vista development, it was an abandoned complex that had fallen victim to poverty. Where others saw hopeless housing, Save the Family, Valley Partnership, and Gorman & Co. saw a promising future for a large population of Mesa’s homeless and poverty-stricken community. The three put their heads together and hands to work to bring light and life to this Mesa neighborhood that had been left in the dark.
For the past 26 years, Valley Partnership has selected a nonprofit organization to be the recipient of its community service project. Its 2013 selection was Save the Family, an organization that provides housing and life skills to the homeless and impoverished in the Phoenix Metro.
Even with 25 years and $3.5M of community projects up its sleeve, the Escobedo project brought new challenges and “firsts.” To begin, it was Valley Partnership’s first ground-up redevelopment project. The existing foundations were crumbling and had to be completely rebuilt.
“The original units were built to be housing for British and black Americans that were training at Falcon Field during World War II,” says Jacki Taylor, CEO of Save the Family Foundation. Post-war, the units served as segregated housing until eight years ago, when the City of Mesa began evacuating the buildings because of decreasing structural stability. Time and money were needed to get the housing to a habitable state and that is where “the dream team” came in.
This development would require extensive construction, which brought Valley Partnership another “first” — the need for city approval and permits for a re-design. Since this was the first community project Valley Partnership had done in the City of Mesa, there were even more new rules and hoops to jump through. Despite the additional work required by all parties involved, the rebuilding of the Washington-Escobedo neighborhood “came together better than we could have hoped for,” said project co-chair Dena Jones.
The 70 units built were filled almost immediately after construction was completed. A waiting list for families hoping to join the community continues to grow. This project “totally changed the complexion of this neighborhood,” said Taylor. What used to be boarded-up, graffiti-laden and crumbling buildings is now a community of homes, classrooms, computer labs and gym facilities.
“We were all committed to making a difference and working together,” said Jones. “The teams from Gorman, Save the Family, City of Mesa, Tofel Construction and the project sponsors were so wonderful to work with and I cannot thank them enough for giving us the opportunity to take part in the legacy of Escobedo at Verde Vista.”
And the public has definitely noticed. Brian Swanton, AZ Market President for Gorman and Company Inc. said the Escobedo project “has been lauded for its success in revitalizing a boarded-up and vacant eyesore in the middle of this single-family neighborhood.”
What is in store for Valley Partnership’s 2014 project? They are in the final stages of deciding whom to partner up with for this year, but Jones knows that whomever they chose, Valley Partnership will be taking much of what they learned from the Escobedo project with them. “Our partnership is comprised of so many talented and hard working professionals committed to giving back. Engaging the committee members during the time we spend together and growing our committee will continue to be a focus for 2014.”