Coffelt Park

RE-ENVISIONING A COMMUNITY PARK: Translating Health Impact Assessment findings into park redesign

In late 2012, the Housing Authority of Maricopa County (HAMC) proposed a plan to redevelop the Coffelt-Lameroux public housing property, using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program in collaboration with Gorman & Company, Inc. The goal was to redevelop 296 units and their surrounding site including a pocket park located within the property. This project proposed a redesign for this park taking into account the needs of the community resultant from the Health Impact Assessment conducted prior to the redevelopment plan. The programming is geared to create a community space that serves all residents at Coffelt.

Coffelt Park is a 1.5 acre facility located centrally within Coffelt-Lameroux Public Housing site. The park is located west of the Coffelt community center, adjacent to the Housing Authority of Maricopa County property management office. The condition of the park and its facilities are in a state of disrepair at this time. The park is poorly maintained and the lack of lighting and shade inhibit its use. The existing playground equipment is broken, locked and not to code, while the existing basketball court is cracked and missing nets on the hoops. Signs of tagging and vandalism are prevalent throughout the park. While residents perceived that Coffelt Park could be a vital social asset, in its present state the park does not meet the needs of the community. With 60% of Coffelt residents being children under 18 and 13% being elderly or disabled, there is also a pressing need for a park that serves the need of the whole community. Residents expressed a need for a physical space that was more than a place where they could come together for physical activity. They felt a lack of social cohesion and identity in their community that they partly attributed to a lack of a convenient physical space where the community could come together. Residents wanted a well-designed space where they could share food and festivities, long-term residents could share stories of their experiences and the history of the neighborhood and the elderly and youth could support and entertain each other.

Based on the findings of the HIA, the park was conceptualized as a community space, rather than just a place for physical activity; an outdoor extension of the community center. To activate and sustain the health and vibrancy of this community, it was critical that the park needed to be redesigned as a space for all ages. As a multigenerational community space, this community park would not only afford a space for bringing the community together, but enhance their shared experiences to build and support a more cohesive community.

Multi-generational facilities are shared areas where children, youth and older adults interact during scheduled or spontaneous activities creating togetherness for all ages (Ramnarace, C. (2012); Cohen, A. (2010); Kuo, F. E. (2010); 5. Rodiek, S. (2010); Playworld Systems. (May 8, 2012)). Multi-generational spaces afford opportunities to build cohesive communities; help break stereotypes and prejudices related to age by celebrating complementary skills and talents; and offer a space for the exchange of rich and diverse life experiences that build a connection between the past, present and the future.
Some critical design elements to consider for a successful multi-generational space are:
1. A space that allows a balance of privacy and community
2. A space that incorporates effective safety and security
3. A space that promotes their independence and pride
4. A space that allows planned and spontaneous activities

The goal of the project was to create an affordable, multi-generational outdoor space that affords residents the opportunity to rebuild a cohesive community; celebrate generational differences, and offer a space for all ages to be physically active. The overall design needed to accommodate more than just children’s play. A community garden was envisioned as a central feature to bring residents of all ages together while providing a convenient and affordable source for fresh foods and vegetables. Shade afforded by large shade trees and canvas canopies create comfortable outdoor gathering spaces. A stage and amphitheater area function as a place for performances conducted and enjoyed by the community, while providing an added gathering space and dance floor for large cultural festivities. Clusters of picnic tables with barbeque stations provide opportunities for both small family dinners and community wide food fests. Clusters of benches spread out in both active and quiet areas of the park facilitate interaction and retreat for all ages. A circular plaza just adjacent to the community center acts as an extension of the indoor space and doubles as a story-telling venue for the elders in the community. The low wall around the plaza affords comfortable seating for the elderly and residents with disabilities. A hard-surface walkway that meanders through the park can be used as a running, jogging or walking track. The path is wide enough to accommodate strollers. The mister play area is a unique feature designed for play of all ages while staying cool in the Arizona summer. It also creates a microclimate around the park that cools the adjacent climbing structure and toddler play area. The swings and slides are designed to accommodate people of all abilities. The existing basketball court is renovated so it can be fully functional and a mural wall adjacent to the court affords a space for community art. A low wall behind the performance stage displays the name of the park to enhance identity.

This project was a collaboration between Catalyze Research and Consulting, LLC , Spark Architecture, LLC and The Design Element, LLC in partnership with LISC Phoenix funded by the Arizona Community Foundation as part of the Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing Redevelopment.

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