Once again this year, architects, urban planners, students, developers and community leaders are coming up with big ideas to help strengthen and unite the eight communities that currently line the Rio Salado and make it a true asset for the Valley.

The Rio Reimagined Ideas Competition, which is a renewed vision of the late Senator John McCain conducted by the American Institute of Architects Phoenix Metro Chapter, tasks local place-makers, members of the community-at-large, and anyone else with ideas to share with creating visionary proposals that would outline plans for restoring the river’s natural ecosystem while encouraging economic vitality. 

This year’s theme is “Crossing the Line That Separates,” and it asks participants to consider how this river, which doubles as a line that divides the land, could also help connect the communities and people that live alongside it. 

“This river has undergone considerable change through the years, and while we’ve made significant advancements as a community in terms of mitigating the flood risks associated with it, we also need to recognize how the changing face of the river has kept us from taking advantage of all it has to offer,” said AIA Phoenix Metro Chapter’s Past President Michael Jacobs. “Instead of seeing it as the immensely valuable resource it is, we’ve taken to seeing it as something that separates, rather than unites us, and in this competition, we’re looking for ways to reverse this trend and change this sentiment.” 

The Rio Salado currently covers a 58-mile stretch spanning Mesa, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Tempe, Phoenix, the Gila River Reservation, Avondale, Goodyear and Buckeye, and contest entrants should focus their efforts and submissions on a particular segment of the river. Those looking to submit entries may do so with final idea submissions due November 19. A five-member panel of leading architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and development professionals will judge submitted entries, and the winners will receive a cash prize in addition to the exhibition and publication of their work. 

While the anticipated outcomes are, at this point, strictly visionary, meaning they have not yet undergone sanctioning by stakeholders, municipalities or private landowners, they will serve as a drawing board and conversation-starter for future revitalization efforts when community leaders come together and focus their efforts on bringing the Rio Salado back to life.

The results of this year’s competition will also, like last year’s, help identify themes for future competitions, with AIA Phoenix Metro continuing to collaborate with community partners while helping further the Rio Salado’s transformation into a critical community resource as well as a landmark destination.

For more information about AIA Metro Phoenix Chapter’s 2019 Rio Reimagined Ideas Competition, check out AIA-PhoenixMetro.org.