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Students design projects for vacant Phoenix lots

November 30, 2009

Low cost ideas, such as the construction of planter boxes, to transform vacant lots in downtown Phoenix for temporary use will be presented Dec. 8 on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

The multimedia presentation of research models was developed by university students in an urban design practice class taught by Nan Ellin, an associate professor and director of the planning program in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She also is an affiliate faculty member with ASU's School of Sustainability.

"In 2000, the Phoenix metropolitan area contained 42.6 percent vacant land, significantly higher than most American cities," said Pei Zhai, a doctoral student in sustainability.

"To address this vexing challenge, the mayor's office requested that ASU students develop a model for the temporary use of publicly owned vacant lots," Ellin said. "In response, students developed the Desert TULIP – Temporary Urban Laboratory Infill Project – a low-cost strategy to transform vacant lots until their development."

The students were asked to focus specifically on lots south of Garfield between Third and Sixth Streets, an area designated to become part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

Undergraduate and graduate students of various backgrounds and majors searched worldwide for city vacant lot strategies, Ellin said.

"In Phoenix, they spoke with citizens, community organizations, local businesses and city officials for input on the project. High-resolution 3-D models of Phoenix were employed to envision Desert TULIP projects; and a collaborative project constructing planter boxes was undertaken as a first step toward turning Phoenix's vacant lots into urban amenities," Ellin said.

The multimedia presentation with results from the class research, including the introduction of the demonstration planter box project, will be followed by a panel discussion that includes representatives from the city of Phoenix, the Phoenix Community Alliance and Roosevelt Row. The presentation is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon in the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, located on the eighth floor of the Security Building, which is on the southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Central Avenue.

For more information about Desert TULIP, contact Ellin at, (480) 965-6160.