Arizona's Canyon Corridor seems an unlikely candidate to become a symbol for urban resurgence. The West Valley section of Phoenix has suffered from the economic woes besetting many of America's inner-city neighborhoods – poverty, crime, unemployment and time-worn homes falling into disrepair. But against these odds, the West Valley is transforming into a shining success story of how a public/private/community partnership can help a once-thriving neighborhood turn itself around.
The revitalization of one of Phoenix's oldest neighborhoods is a collaborative effort between Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, a locally run nonprofit that has been serving Arizona since 1985, and Grand Canyon University (GCU), a premier, private Christian university located in the heart of the West Valley community. Started in 2015, their Canyon Corridor Project brings much needed repairs, at a reduced rate, to properties throughout the neighborhood. About 700 homes in the Canyon Corridor have been designated for the project, which offers new windows, painting, landscaping and roofing packages. Work is expected to be completed in four phases lasting 12–18 months each.
Habitat for Humanity provides leadership, tools and equipment, while GCU subsidizes a percentage of the projects and provides volunteers to do the home repairs. Working alongside the homeowners themselves are GCU's student, faculty and staff volunteers. The homeowners pay a portion of the repairs and provide "sweat equity," thus fulfilling Habitat for Humanity's motto that the program is "a hand up, not a handout."
"Since January 2015, we've been able to serve nearly 80 families in Phase 1 of the project," said Jason Barlow, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. "Of that number, 21 were provided with critical repairs – that is, urgent major fixes to keep homeowners safe, warm or cool, or from being displaced from their homes. The Canyon Corridor Project is a powerful national model for university-community partnerships. Block by block, we're restoring homes, revitalizing neighborhoods and giving West Valley residents a new sense of community pride and optimism."