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ASU students bringing new energy to historic downtown Phoenix building

The Westward Ho is a historic building that sits in the heart of downtown Phoenix (Mike Sackley/KTAR photo).

PHOENIX — A nearly 90-year-old downtown Phoenix building is now home to a new program that brings together Arizona State University students and the building’s residents.

The Westward Ho, founded in 1928, was a popular hotel for many decades. Since then, the building has been turned into federally subsidized housing for the elderly and those in poverty.

Now, ASU students want to work with and engage the building’s nearly 300 residents through the new “Collaboratory on Central.” Students, faculty and researchers will work with residents and provide them with important social services.

“By reinvigorating the Westward Ho, this iconic structure of downtown Phoenix, we’re doing something that in many ways is more exciting than building a brand new structure,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Services and Community Solutions.

One of the goals of the program is to build a sense of community among the Westward Ho’s residents.

“Part of the challenge is they live sort of isolated lives,” said Koppell. “We are hoping to be kind of the glue that creates a community.”

Residents can receive regular health checks from ASU nursing students, like senior Danyela Buizer. She said they also provided pedometers to residents who wanted to participate in a walking program.

“[Residents] love interacting with all the students,” Buizer said. “We as students are very interested in their stories because we believe strongly that we can learn from them.”

ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and the Center for Child Well-Being are both located in the building. ASU has 15,000 square feet of office space in what was the Westward Ho’s Concho Room, a space that for years hosted musical acts and social events.

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