By Teri Carnicelli
Three years ago, after the northwest light rail extension opened along 19th Avenue from Montebello to Dunlap Avenue, a group of community stakeholders got together to promote an area that had been negatively impacted by the construction—and was now feeling the impact of more people traveling through their community.
This new group, the 19 North Alliance, wanted to not only promote, but also reimagine established neighborhoods and businesses along this route, as well as highlight newcomers to the area.
Open Door Fellowship Church, at 8301 N. 19th Ave., became the base of operations for this new alliance, hosting several public meetings, health fairs, and other community events, spearheaded by Shannon McBride, the church’s pastor of Fellowship and Community who also served as the alliance’s chairman.
The 19 North Alliance was a collaborative effort by faith communities, the Washington Elementary School District (WESD), representatives from Councilman Daniel Valenzuela’s office, city of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department, local businesses, as well as nearby neighborhood associations.
Eventually, the focus was narrowed and refined, and a 19North nonprofit association was formed (www.19north.org). McBride left the church to become the new nonprofit’s executive director earlier this year.
Some of the goals first identified by the alliance are either completed or in the works, including a community arts center and a community garden. The 19North Arts Center, located inside the elegant Spanish-style building to the south of Albertson’s market at 19th and Northern avenues, also serves as the offices of the 19North nonprofit organization.
The space was donated by the property’s owner, who wanted to support the community-based effort. Constructed in 1942, the building served as the Good Shepherd Home for Girls until 1981, and was placed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 1988.
“This arts center gives a venue and a voice to our community artists, whether professional or student,” explains McBride. Short-term art classes were held in March, with a second round slated to begin in May, courtesy of the Phoenix Center for the Arts. In addition, students from Royal Palm Middle School had their artwork displayed during the Second Saturday event last month, and other artists will have their works displayed in the space on a rotating basis.
The purpose of the Second Saturday event is to promote local businesses, artists and musicians while also giving local schools a volunteer opportunity for their students. It takes place in the open courtyard adjacent to the arts center the second Saturday of each month.
“This monthly event helps businesses connect with the community, and allows schools to encourage their students to give back in a meaningful way,” McBride says. Students from Royal Palm did a street cleanup in advance of the March Second Saturday, and students from Washington High School will participate in a street cleanup in advance of the April 14 event. If your family or business wants to participate in the clean-up effort (3:30-5 p.m.), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 19North Community Garden is still in the early stages of development, with both in-kind and monetary donors being sought. The property for the garden, located between El Caminito and Las Palmaritas along 19th Avenue, is owned by the city of Phoenix, which is allowing the nonprofit to use the land via a lease agreement. The land has been scraped and leveled, and SRP has agreed to lay the water lines for drip and other irrigation. The plan is to open the garden in December.
Right now the goal is to get the word out about the garden and generate some interest—and some donations, explains McBride, who created a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 (as of press time, no donations had been made yet). “All that gets donated goes right to the garden,” she emphasizes.
While in-kind donations, such as a shed, raised beds, trees, fencing and more have been donated (and more are both needed and welcomed), money is needed to cover permit/building fees, water, and other operational expenses.
Other objectives, including a 19North Community Master Development Plan, are still in the development stages. The next meeting about the community master plan, with representatives of the Phoenix Planning Department and Smithgroup Architecture, is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12 at Open Door Fellowship Church, and is open to interested members of the public.
“Right now we’re just really trying to get the word out about 19North, because when people hear about it, they get excited and want to get involved,” McBride says. “They want to give back to the community and make this area successful.”
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