ASU's Project Cities program connects students with cities for a more sustainable state

Students in the program will be working with the cities of Peoria and Clarkdale

A group of ASU students will have the opportunity to bring sustainability to the desert through partnerships with the Arizona cities of Peoria and Clarkdale. 

Essentially a sustainability matchmaker, the Project Cities program connects students with local communities to work together to provide solutions to sustainability-related challenges the city might face. 

A unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Project Cities partners with a new community every year to assist in the advancement of sustainability initiatives.

The program is multidisciplinary and works on a wide variety of projects focusing on sustainability in terms of social, economic and environmental components.

Steven Russell, program manager of Project Cities, said the program has a multitude of benefits for everyone involved. 

“The students get a hands-on learning opportunity to practice professional skills by working with clients,” Russell said.  

“The city gets extra capacity to move projects forward that they may not have the labor or capacity to address at the time and citizens, of course, benefit from having a more economically sustainable community,” he said.

When choosing applicants to partner with, Project Cities looks for a community that proposes multiple projects that incorporate elements of sustainability, Russell said. 

In the past, the program has worked with the cities of Apache Junction and Glendale where it has completed projects like an off-leash dog park and designs for resource-efficient city buildings. 

Russell said the program traditionally works with just one community at a time, but Project Cities has expanded their model to work with two communities during the 2019-2020 term, Peoria and Clarkdale

Lisa Estrada, the economic efficiency and sustainability manager for the city of Peoria,  said she is looking forward to working with ASU.

“Whenever we can bridge academia with real-world challenges and situations, we love to have that different perspective that's based on research and knowledge stemming from an education institution,” Estrada, who's also an instructor in ASU's sustainability school, said.

Russell said the program's leadership is excited to work with Peoria on projects such as a water shortage response plan and and development of smart city technologies to improve building sustainability. 

“Peoria has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives,” he said. “They have multiple staff members dedicated to the community’s impact and how they engage with their community.”

Jodie Filardo, Community and Economic Development Director for the town of Clarkdale said the Project Cities program is the opportunity Clarkdale has been waiting for.

“We thought the opportunity of the Project Cities program would be terrific because we want to attract young, new entrepreneurial ideas to Clarkdale,” Filardo said.

She said Clarkdale will be working with ASU to revitalize its central business district. 

“We'd like to make our town interesting to people who are wanting to join and really contribute to a community that has a rich history, but is also very invested in protecting beautiful resources and maintaining sustainability into the future,” Filardo said. 

By working with both Peoria and Clarkdale, Project Cities will be given the opportunity to solve a variety of issues. 

“We're really excited to work with both Clarkdale and Peoria this year because it's an opportunity to work with a smaller rural community as well as a larger metro area community and there's a lot of benefits towards both of those styles,” Russell said.


Reach the reporter at adehave1@asu.edu and follow @adehave1 on Twitter. 

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