Blog Archives

Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards Ceremony is September 17

Valley Forward is hosting their 31st annual Environmental Excellence Awards on September 17 at the Westin Kierland Resort.

Valley Forward Association’s 31st Annual Environmental Excellence Awards program, held in partnership with SRP for the tenth consecutive year, is scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2011, at The Westin Kierland.

This prestigious program has grown significantly over the years and now encompasses seven broad categories, including buildings and structures, livable communities, site development and landscape, art in public places, environmental technologies, environmental education/communication, and environmental stewardship (SRP Award).

Read more here, plus watch a video from KAET’s Horizon program highlighting the 2010 awardees. There’s also a link to register to attend this year’s ceremony.

Valley Forward updates Environmental Education directory

Valley Forward is working diligently this summer to update their online Environmental Education Resource Directory, a comprehensive listing of Valley Forward member organizations providing educational programs, activities and curriculum on environmental issues. Topics of particular interest include: agriculture, air, archeology, conservation, energy land use, recycling, waste, water, wildlife and nature.

The directory will be showcased to the more than 400 Arizona teachers in attendance at Valley Forward’s annual EarthFest Educators Night this October, in addition to being an ongoing resource for educators, parents and Valley residents.

If you have an educational resource that should be in the directory, download the form and send it in.

City of Phoenix cuts red tape to spur renovations, adaptive reuse

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — Green is in.  So is encouraging new business.  Through its adaptive reuse program, Phoenix’s Development Services Department is recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to creating new business opportunities.  The year-old program, which streamlines the process of modifying older buildings for new business uses, recently won a first-place Crescordia Award in this year’s Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards.

Denée McKinley, a Development Services administrator, said the program assists business owners who want to bring new life to historic or established areas of the city.  Of the approximately 30 businesses that started the process, 17 have opened their doors, including the Tuck Shop.  The program applies to buildings smaller than 5,000 square feet and older than 25 years but may expand to buildings up to 10,000 square feet and built prior to 2000.

Before the program, it was too expensive for small-business owners to meet current city-code requirements, McKinley said.  She said the office heard time and again that it was less expensive to tear a building down and build new than update a historic building.  “We wanted to keep the character of the neighborhoods,” McKinley said.  “We didn’t want to lose that.”

Applicants must meet zoning, safety and quality development requirements, but the city speeds up the processing, saving applicants time and money.  “We’ve looked at it more of a remodel than a change of use,” McKinley said.  “The fire department did a code change that if it’s 1,500 square feet or less and met access criteria, they didn’t have to put in sprinklers.  Most of our customers found that to be a very big help to them financially.”  [Note: To read the full article, visit City of Phoenix cuts red tape to spur renovations, adaptive reuse.]

5 downtown Phoenix projects win Valley Forward awards (6 if you count light rail)

Civic Space Park, "Her Secret is Patience," and adjoining Taylor Place and light rail win awards

[Source: Shaun McKinnon, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s light-rail system received the top prize Saturday night in Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards, a program that honors contributions to livability and sustainability.  The rail system, which opened less than a year ago, was recognized for connecting Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe with a transportation network that contest judges noted had already exceeded expectations.  “While light rail won’t solve the Valley’s transportation challenges, it offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative to the automobile and was designed to be integrated with all modes of transport,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, a community group that works on livability and sustainability issues.

The group presents its awards in more than a dozen categories each year to cities, community groups and private businesses. From among the category winners, the judges choose one to receive the President’s Award, the contest’s best-in-show recognition.

Metro Light Rail won a first place in the Livable Communities, Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity category.  The awards are named “Crescordia,” a Greek term that means “to grow in harmony.”  More than 150 entries were submitted for the awards. The rest of the winners:

Downtown Phoenix

  • Civic Space Park, a 2.8-acre public space near Central Avenue and Fillmore Street in Phoenix, was honored for its mix of gathering spaces and storefronts, built with efficient use of materials.
  • Her Secret is Patience, the billowing outdoor sculpture suspended above Phoenix’s Civic Space Park, won the top public-art honor. The judges saw “an important statement about fostering sense of place, community and pride.”
  • Hanny’s, a restaurant and lounge in downtown Phoenix, won for its adaptive reuse of a historic building.
  • Habitat, the living wall and garden at the Phoenix Convention Center, was recognized for its design and use of resources to provide a comfortable gathering place.
  • Arizona State University’s Taylor Place, a student housing complex at the school’s downtown Phoenix campus, won for multi-family residential building.


  • The headquarters of Sundt, a Tempe-based contractor, was recognized for its green-building achievements, which included energy-saving features and efficient use of materials.
  • The Tempe Transportation Center won two first-place awards, one for industrial and public works buildings and structures, and one for its rooftop landscaping in the site development category.
  • ASU’s campus solarization project was honored for an effort to generate more renewable power on the school’s Tempe campus.
  • Burgis Envirolutions was honored in the environmental-technologies category for its organic-refuse conversion process, which transforms more than a ton of food waste each day into a nutrient-rich effluent.

Other locales

  • Phoenix’s Bag Central Station, a campaign to recycle plastic bags, was honored in the environmental education and communication category.
  • A remodeled Sunnyslope office building was recognized for its side development and landscape at the remodeled 40-year-old building.  Imirzian and Associates architects and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects were named in the award.
  • ASU’s Polytechnic Campus was honored for transforming a site on the former Williams Air Force Base into what the judges described as a walkable, shady campus.
  • The Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale was recognized for the work done to re-vegetate the site, the use of rainwater harvesting for water and solar energy to provide its power needs.

For a complete list of categories with merit award winners, click here.

Downtown Phoenix Public Market says thank you!

downtown-phoenix-public-market-mixerThe April 22nd networking mixer at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market has come and gone, and the fine folks in this photo representing the sponsoring organizations, say thank you to the hundreds of people who came out to enjoy live music, great food, and camaraderie. The primary goal of the event was to help raise awareness and support for the market’s growth and “bricks and mortar” expansion.

Sponsors were: Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Small Business Association, Community Food Connections, Downtown Voices Coalition, Local First Arizona, Phoenix Business Journal, and Valley Forward.

For more information about the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, click here.

Support the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, April 22

Downtown Phoenix Public Market Store opens soon (Photo: Sarah Parkin,

The Arizona Small Business Association is partnering with the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and Local First Arizona to help raise awareness and support for the market’s growth and “bricks & mortar” expansion.  All “friends of downtown Phoenix” are welcome to attend what promises to be a fun, enjoyable event to include live music, wonderful food, and drink refreshments. 

  • Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
  • Time: 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Place: Downtown Phoenix Public Market, 721 N. Central Ave. Phoenix

You can also drop by information tables of supporting organizations for news about what’s going on from their respective corner of downtown!  So far there will be:

  • Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce
  • Arizona Small Business Association
  • Downtown Voices Coalition
  • Local First Arizona
  • Phoenix Business Journal
  • Valley Forward

For more information, contact Tom Lockhart at ASBA.

Mayor and volunteers plant trees in downtown Phoenix

Volunteers help plant trees in downtown Phoenix (City of Phoenix)

Volunteers help plant trees in downtown Phoenix (photo: City of Phoenix)

[Source: Deborah Stocks, ABC15] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon rolled up his sleeves Saturday to help fend off the effects of global warming. The mayor joined volunteers who were planting 40 trees in downtown Phoenix to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Valley Forward Association, an organization that promotes efforts to improve the environment and livability of Valley communities.

The group of 120 volunteers planted Chinese Evergreen Elms in the downtown Roosevelt District near 5th and Roosevelt street. The trees were donated by Salt River Project and Enterprise Rent-a-car will need little water. This is the second round of planting. More than 120 new trees have been planted through the Mayor’s downtown tree planting initiative.

Gordon planted and staked the first tree Saturday.  Volunteers participated from ASU, Valley Forward, SRP, Girl Scout troop 436, and many neighbors.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Grand opening set for Phoenix Steele Indian School Park’s restored Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall built in 1922 as it is todayThe city of Phoenix will celebrate the grand opening of the newly restored Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park on Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m.  Memorial Hall is one of three buildings remaining at the park from the Phoenix Indian School, a federally run school for Native Americans that previously occupied the site of the park.  The grand opening celebration will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m., followed by self-guided tours from 6:45 to 7:15 and performances by the Phoenix Boys Choir, Phoenix Chorale, and other local musicians at 7:30 that will showcase the hall’s acoustics.  All events are free and open to the public.

After its opening, Memorial Hall will be available for rent as a space for musical performances, special arts presentations, and community meetings.  Originally designed as a musical performance space, the Hall is uniquely suited for choral and musical presentations.  Detailed facility and rental information is available online on the Arts, Culture, and History page of the Parks and Recreation Department website.  The Hall’s renovation recently earned the Valley Forward Crescordia Award for Historic Preservation for 2008.

Memorial Hall, a two-story Mission Revival style building, was constructed in 1922.  The school used it for general assemblies, graduation ceremonies, and theatrical activities.  In the 1930s, students began carving their names in the red brick outside the main entrance, a tradition that students continued over the ensuing decades.  Because the buildings red brick exterior was preserved, those carved names are still visible.  To this day, former students of the school return to the site to find the names they carved decades earlier.

During rehabilitation, the original building fabric was restored to preserve as much of the structure as possible and reduce the need for new materials and increased landfill waste. The original maple floor was refinished and reinstalled, most of the windows were rehabilitated rather than replaced, saving the original wood that was used to make them in 1922, and the standards for the chairs on the balcony level were all reused in the restoration of the seating.  Although many of the tin ceiling panels had been damaged when heating and air conditioning duct work was put in place after the 1940s, many of the stunning ceiling tiles were salvaged in the restoration.  Great care was taken in planning the new heating, cooling, and ventilation system for the building.  A central plant was installed, ductwork was concealed under the crawlspace and in the attic to minimize detrimental effects to the historic character, and insulation was added under the floor and in the attic to improve energy efficiency.  New electrical and plumbing systems were designed with energy efficient lighting, low flow fixtures, and state of the art control systems to reduce long term energy consumption.  The restoration cost just under $5 million, 75% of which came from 2001 and 2006 bonds. The remaining funding came from grants from the National Park Service and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Valley Forward honors eight City of Phoenix projects

Memorial Hall, Steele Indian School Park

Memorial Hall, Steele Indian School Park

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix won eight awards for significant contributions to the environment during the recent Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony.  Phoenix received first-place Crescordia Awards for the following projects:

  • Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park in the category of Buildings and Structures, Historic Preservation
  • Neighborhood Resource Center in the category of Buildings and Structures, Public Works
  • Rio Salado Equestrian Trailhead in the category of Site Development and Landscape, Trails
  • Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area – Solar Irrigation Enhancement in the category of Environmental Technologies

Phoenix received Awards of Merit for:

  • Camelback East Village Core Pedestrian Streetscape and Underpass in the category of Buildings and Structures, Industrial, and Public Works
  • Recycling Changes Everything – On the Weekend in the category of Environmental Education/ Communications, Public Sector
  • Henson Village HOPE VI Development in the category of Livable Communities, Master Planned Communities
  • Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay District in the category of Livable Communities, Public Policy/Plans

The Valley Forward Association, which promotes cooperative efforts to improve the environment and livability of Valley communities, received more than 130 entries in this year’s competition.  For more information about Phoenix’s sustainability efforts, click here.

Metro Phoenix parks and open space subject of two studies

Papago Park, Phoenix[Source: Project for Livable Communities] — Valley Forward is promoting “The Valley’s Pedestrian Freeway: A Priceless Necklace of Trails and Gems” on its website. Although there are numerous gaps in the route, Valley Forward envisions “a ring of trails, circling the Valley, connecting parks, riparian corridors, recreational facilities, and desert landscapes.” You can learn more about the trails system and how you can help to close the gaps, plus find trails that you can enjoy today.

In addition, an in-depth look is taken by Randy Virgen in the article, “The Challenge of Providing Parks and Recreation Services in a Fast Growing Metropolitan Area,” of the 2008 Arizona Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. “Parks, open space, and recreation opportunities are central to our quality of life and serve as important economic drivers for tourism and other economic sectors. But the fact is that our parks and recreation services are at a crossroads: They can no longer keep up with the demands by Greater Phoenix’s growing population.” Click here to read the complete article, which appeared in the February 2008 APRA Magazine.