There’s a community in Phoenix where roots run deep and hopes for the future run high. This community runs along 19th Avenue. It is where I call home.
I grew up near 15th and Orangewood avenues. At that time, there were farm fields, teams of horses and wide open spaces. My childhood consisted of playing outside all day with my friends and reluctantly going home when the street lights turned on. The dear friends I still have today are my classmates from Orangewood Elementary and Washington High School. (Go Rams!) I graduated from Arizona State University then headed to Chicago to work. Ultimately, I came back home in 2003 with my young daughter. Back home to 19th Avenue. I returned to a dramatically different landscape. More businesses, more homes and apartment complexes, more traffic, and the challenges that come with the growth of a city. While much has changed, many aspects have remained the same. The history. The nostalgia. The sense of ownership.
Why is this important? I, along with many others here, want to preserve that past while creating positive change for the future. Local businesses, schools, churches, neighborhood groups, police officers and non-profits have come together to create 19NORTH. We share a common vision to make our community a “safe walkable community for all to enjoy.”
Along 19th Avenue, past intersects with progress. The sights and sounds of light rail travel alongside mom-and-pop shops, schools and community centers that have been serving residents for decades. In fact, the catalyst for 19NORTH’s collaborative approach to community revitalization was the addition of Valley Metro Rail, which is embedded into the center of our community. With the light rail construction came funding, support, connections, relationships and resources provided to us by Valley Metro, city of Phoenix and Sundt Stacy/Witbeck Joint Venture, the contractor that built our extension.
The transformation is underway. Banners now greet residents as they enter our community. 19NORTH signs are appearing on buildings and businesses. We have created a community newspaper. A community garden is blossoming. We are piloting a mentoring program in our middle schools. We donated food boxes to all 19NORTH schools to provide to families over the fall and winter breaks. We’ve also organized several neighborhood cleanups as a way to show pride in our neighborhoods. Bag by bag, we gathered up trash and debris. If we show how much we care, then we believe others will as well. So much more is happening and is to come in 2017.
We will launch a business alliance to bring businesses together to support and protect one another and this community. We are hosting Love Our Community on February 11 near 19th Avenue and Butler. This free, family-friendly street fair includes a public, community clean up along 19th Avenue. We are working with the Department of Community and Economic Development in Phoenix to identify specific ways we can partner together to improve the economy in 19NORTH. We are working on a pilot program to conduct regular surveys of 19NORTH by offering support services to those who would like help and addressing those with violations. In addition, our Interfaith Council will gather local faith leaders to find unique ways to love and serve 19NORTH.
19NORTH is defining a new direction for this community. Together, we can recreate the “small town” neighborhood feel in the midst of a big city. By blending the richness of our history with a vision of progress, we are preparing our home for the next generation as a place to live, learn and enjoy.