The Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing Neighborhood
Dec 15th, 2009
In December 2008, the Housing Authority of Maricopa County Board of Commissioners (HAMC) asked the Stardust Center to assist with the program development and strategic planning associated with the revitalization or redevelopment of their single largest public housing community called Coffelt-Lamoreaux. This 300 dwelling neighborhood was built on 37.75 acres in 1955 on what was then the edge of Phoenix, surrounded by agriculture.
From a physical condition standpoint, time has been very unkind to the Coffelt neighborhood. Once isolated west of Phoenix but relatively bucolic, Coffelt was annexed in 1959 by the City of Phoenix and over time has become surrounded by industrial and commercial land uses. Indeed, Coffelt today is an island of residential under the flight path of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and adjacent to I-17, an interstate freeway. This is housing of last resort, lacking many modern amenities and access to a grocery store. Yet there is a high degree of social cohesion in the community; people look out for each other at Coffelt. Resident complaints about the physical condition of the property including accessibility improvements could be addressed over time with adequate funding.
There are unanswered questions, however, about the long term sustainability of the neighborhood in its current location especially since the HAMC is not adequately funded to correct many of the obsolete features within the neighborhood. Even with adequate funding, the neighborhood lacks retail services and is isolated from jobs and economic opportunities.
The Stardust Approach: Do No Harm
We began with a process of resident social asset mapping to learn from the community residents directly about their neighborhood. Dr. Ruth Yabes, ASU faculty from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Sherry Ahrentzen, Associate Director for Research, Policy and Strategic Initiatives of the Stardust Center mobilized nearly 40 urban planning students in spring 2009 to interview residents including families, elders, and youth. Data gathered was compiled and analyzed by planning students under the guidance of Yabes and Ahrentzen.Their work is reported through the eyes of the youth at Coffelt-Lamoreaux.
The conclusions of this social asset mapping exercise demonstrates that Coffelt functions surprisingly well as a community under difficult circumstances. Nearly 20% of the area residents are related to others in the community and there is a pattern and practice of neighbors helping neighbors with child care, errands, and transportation. The adjacent Arthur M. Hamilton Elementary School is especially prized and the teachers were singled out for praise and their commitment to the children. Yet only a portion of Coffelt children are assigned at the school because some English Language Learner programs are held elsewhere.
Despite that reality, the open space and playfields are valuable community assets (and enjoy the patronage of the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball team and the Diamondbacks’ Foundation). Indeed, as the neighborhood goes so goes the school and vice versa. Redevelopment activities need to be programmed and include the School Administration and mitigate, to the greatest extent possible, any negative impacts on the Arthur M. Hamilton Elementary School, the students, the school district, and the quality of education offered to the community. We are grateful for the cooperation of the school district administration and Arthur M. Hamilton Elementary School teachers and staff. We are also pleased so many young people could have a meaningful exchange with so many energized college students. Given the demographics of Coffelt, this may have been a new experience for many Coffelt children and we hope it inspires them to consider the possibilities of higher education.
The following items constitute deliverables to the HAMC pursuant their engagement of the Stardust Center for Affordable Homes & the Family:
- Residents’ Voices and Viewpoints in Coffelt Community: A photojournalism project undertaken by youth residing at the Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing neighborhood. This report articulates and illustrates the many social assets present in the neighborhood from the viewpoint of the residents as reported to the student researchers. This report contains several important findings which were compiled from the data collected by the planning students.
- Coffelt Accessibility and Visitability Report: This work was the concerted effort of four individuals led by Nicholas Smith, an architect and designer with the ASU Stardust Center. Barriers to mobility within the units as well as on the site as a whole were evaluated and a Plan of Action was developed that takes into account the capital improvements necessary to provide a accessible living environment that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- Coffelt Housing-Market Study and Highest and Best Use Analysis: This work was prepared by Jeffrey Stinson, Managing Director of Synthesis Development LLC. The value of the Coffelt-Lamoreaux property in its current use was compared to its value for redevelopment in office, multifamily, and business park or industrial uses. The real estate itself is estimated to be worth $2.5-3 million in today’s constrained economy. Any future value would involve modeling that would be highly speculative and unreliable and was outside the scope of this engagement. The Synthesis Report contains an abundance of information about the property, the surrounding area, and microeconomic trends in the Phoenix Metro area which are all salient facts for the HAMC Board of Commissioners to consider.
- New Markets Tax Credit Case Studies: These case studies were prepared by Norman McLoughlin and Associates to illustrate a range of uses for the equity raised through the allocation and syndication of New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC). The HAMC Board of Commissioners regards the NMTC as a viable means to generate some of the funding necessary to redevelop the property. The NMTC program is administered by the US Treasury on a competitive basis and the Coffelt Neighborhood is eligible because of its physical location in a distressed census tract. NMTC may be used to finance community facilities including a replacement elementary school as well as private businesses that consider the close proximity to I-17 and Sky Harbor Airport a desirable business location.
This report serves as a baseline of information upon which the HAMC Board of Commissioners can make informed decisions. It will require additional resident and community engagement before any final decisions are made. Moreover, close coordination with the Arthur M. Hamilton Elementary School administration will be imperative to ensure the neighborhood is benefitted from any redevelopment within the Coffelt Lamoreaux community.