Madison Heights

COMMUNITY SPACES FOR ALL: A translation of Health Impact Assessment findings into design programming

The Housing Authority of Maricopa County (HAMC) proposed a plan to redevelop the Madison Heights public housing property, using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, to accommodate residents of Madison Heights, Norton Circle and HM Watson Homes. These properties, owned by the Housing Authority are currently in poor condition and the new development is intended to provide quality housing for low-income residents. The restructuring of residents into one property will increase density while still aiming to maintain some green/community space within the site. This project was a proposed design for these green/community spaces to best serve all residents who are projected to reside here.

Majority of residents are under the age of 18 and over 55 years old. There are also a significant number of disabled elderly residents for whom mobility is challenging. While the working adults are out during the day, there are few activities and opportunities on site to productively engage the children and the elderly in this community during the afternoon hours. Limited outdoor green space within the property will be a direct outcome of the proposed increase in housing density in the redeveloped Madison Heights.

An effective design of these limited outdoor spaces that can serve as a recreation and community space for all ages is critical to sustaining the health of the community. As a multigenerational space, these play areas 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 overall design needed to accommodate more than just children’s play. Large shade trees with picnic tables for interaction and retreat, music walls, hard-surface walkways, water features, a story-telling venue and a community garden were some of the features used to bring generations together in this shared space. A multi-generational space can also spark interest in shared programs including healthy eating and active living classes, which can further improve the well-being of this community.

This project was a collaboration between Catalyze Research and Consulting, LLC and Spark Architecture, LLC as part of the Madison Heights Redevelopment.

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