Arizona Fresh moves forward with food
innovation center in south Phoenix
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press
The food desert in south Phoenix ends with the development of Arizona Fresh, a 140-acre food innovation center, year-round farmers market and community park south of downtown Phoenix, at 8th and Elwood streets, proponents of the project contend.
Arizona Fresh brings food security to a Phoenix neighborhood that for years has sought improved nutrition and fresh food opportunities.
The project’s agreement with Phoenix was approved by the City Council in June, meanwhile final agreements were signed in late September.
A community groundbreaking last month unveiled the vision of Arizona Fresh Holdings and its key partner, Plaza Companies. The development team — made up of Arizona Fresh, Arizona Fresh Holdings and Plaza Companies — will transform the former Del Rio landfill site and create an Agri-Food Innovation Center.
Arizona Fresh is the first on-the-ground development of Rio Reimagined, which is the John McCain Legacy Project to transform Rio Salado from the historic mineral resource production center that built Phoenix, according to a press release.
“Arizona Fresh and this innovative agri-tech campus embody the future of food solutions for Phoenix, which is America’s fastest growing major metro region,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a prepared statement.
“Sustainable solutions will combine with technology and innovative alliances, including university research and private-sector collaboration, to deliver improved efficiencies. This knowledge will advance Phoenix as the most sustainable desert city in the world, delivering global impacts on how to plant and modify crops in an arid environment. It will further strengthen the emerging green jobs industry with hundreds of workers important to supporting families in the new economy.”
Phoenix City Councilman Carlos Garcia echoed a similar sentiment.
“I am ecstatic to see the Arizona Fresh Project break ground after many years of work from my office and the City’s Community and Economic Development Department,” he said.
“This project, which took an old landfill site and turned it into a community resource, is an example of what our city should strive for when considering economic development. Not only will residents have access to fresh and healthy food, but this development will also bring good jobs to the area and spark more investment and support for the community. Incorporating a public park into a market concept creates a welcoming space for the community and brings a much-needed resource. It also shows how we can be innovative in creating public-private partnerships that are community-based.”
“I am thrilled to have this project break ground and cannot wait until it opens for the community,” he added.
Plaza Companies serves as master developer
Plaza Companies will serve as the master developer for the south Phoenix project. The leading Greater Phoenix development company has a long list of successful redevelopments, including SkySong in Scottsdale and Park Central in Phoenix, the release states.
“We are very pleased to be part of such an exciting, innovative project that has the strong potential to truly revitalize an area of south Phoenix and the Rio Salado,” said Sharon Harper, chairman and CEO of Plaza Companies. “This will meet not only a critical economic development need, but it will also have an immensely positive impact on areas of the community that currently struggle as food deserts.”
Arizona Fresh seeks to bring new life to the area with a focus on community, sustainability and innovation. The development of the Arizona Fresh International Marketplace will have a year-round operation featuring dozens of local and international producers bringing a wide variety of produce.
“Arizona Fresh will have an extraordinary impact not only on the greater Phoenix area, but the region as a whole as we provide new opportunities for food independence and improved planning and distribution,” said Todd Hardy with Arizona Fresh. “We are excited about the many great connections we are making locally and internationally that will help make this development a success.”
A two-year commitment to community meetings was the foundation for Arizona Fresh. The ongoing engagement of south Phoenix residents and businesses with the city of Phoenix and the Arizona Fresh team resulted in a concept for a 20-acre park meandering along Rio Salado and serving as a focal gathering point for families and friends, a place for entertainment and recreation. An approximately 5.7-acre portion of the park is intended to include lush shade trees providing cooling, overlooks and a trail connecting this space to the existing Rio Salado linear trail.
Arizona Fresh supports the vision of the Rio Reimagined project and is excited to contribute to the redevelopment of the area along the river, representatives of the brand say. The Arizona Fresh team recently welcomed the state of Sinaloa’s Secretary of Economy, Javier Gaxiola Coppel, to Phoenix. His visit reaffirmed the commitment to promote and strengthen bilateral synergies and will be the beginning of a strong and successful relationship between Arizona, Sonora and Sinaloa that will create many opportunities and jobs, while accomplishing food sovereignty for the mega-region.
Globally, Agri-Food is a $7.8 trillion industry, responsible for feeding the planet and hiring well over 40% of it.
Technology plays a key role in the operation of the Agri-food sector, but agriculture is the least digitized of all major industries, according to the McKinsey Global Institute’s Digitization Index. With rising population numbers, global warming and limited natural resources, it is imperative to find creative solutions and this project will create the ideal ecosystem of partnerships to do just that.