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Developer balancing revitalization, Latino culture in Phoenix

PHOENIX — A Phoenix developer is hoping to revive a local area while still maintaining a Hispanic cultural essence of those in the Latino community.

Urban Sol, a development company, is in the process of revitalizing Grant Park in south Phoenix by enhancing streetlights, property renovations and other infrastructure in the area in order to better connect it with the downtown area.

“Our goal is to take that piece of property and connect it with downtown,” said Feliciano Vera with Urban Sol. “What we’ve done (so far) is not typical of most industry practice.”

In order to retain the original Latino culture of the neighborhood, Urban Sol has reached out to the community through meetings with both businesses and organizations.

“The first thing we need to do is make sure we are supporting the investments that have already been made by smaller businesses,” Vera said in regards to local organizations such as St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and local restaurant La Canasta. “The Latinos in the neighborhood would shoot me if I didn’t pay homage to the neighborhood.”

Aside from addressing what the community wanted, Vera also addressed possible issues the community might have.

“As part of those community meetings we asked a dangerous question…we asked citizens what their fears were,” Vera said. “The biggest one was that we would push them out of their neighborhood.”

Grant Park Apartments owner Ruby Daniels believes her tenants would never leave the community, even if they were threatened with being pushed out.

“They have been living here for years,” Daniels said. “Even if they leave, they will always come back.”

Daniels explained that her tenants were looking forward to the revitalization as there is possibility of a new convenience store being opened.

One of the ways Vera plans to bring more life to the area is through purchasing a vacant plot and putting its vacant buildings to use.

“There is a 9,200-square-foot building we will be using for a farmers market that would serve the community,” Vera said. “We are also contemplating using the building as an interim artist building.”

Vera stressed that this was an early period in the revitalization and that nothing was final, as he also had to accommodate to other communities connecting with the Grant Park area.

“I should caution you this is so very early in the process,” Vera said. “We have to also accommodate to the African-American residents of Henson (the community) as well…we have to make sure we are reflecting their contributions.”