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Polytechnic's proposal: an urban green space in the heart of campus

With enough funding, plans for a larger and more accessible community garden on ASU's Polytechnic campus can become reality

Students in the community garden on ASU's Polytechnic Campus. 

Students in the community garden on ASU's Polytechnic Campus. 

A plan for a new urban garden space is being harvested on ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

The proposed garden, referred to as “The Lot,”was planned to create an outdoor space where students and faculty can connect, relax and delve deeper into learning sustainable practices. According to a funding campaign webpage for The Lot initiated under the ASU Foundation, $3,022 has been raised, with a goal of $50,000 in sight. 

The idea stemmed from Susan Norton, the program manager at university sustainability practices, who said she saw a need for a bigger and more accessible space.

“We’d like to have a really nice example of sustainable land development and sustainable gardening to have that educational component for the students,” she said.

The Polytechnic campus currently has a community garden, which Norton said has been successful overall.

“We have 25 garden members who donated close to 400 pounds of produce to local food banks, and we have about 150 K-12 students who engage in the garden each month,” she said.

Norton said even with the benefits of the existing garden, there are some problems that can be fixed with the creation of The Lot.

“The existing garden is really successful, but it is not really a great example of sustainable land design or sustainable farming,” she said. “Even though we have all those successes, some of those features — like being off-campus, not having shade or things to wash our hands in — are really needed to expand and develop the program.”

Norton said The Lot would connect students to new opportunities and teach them more about sustainability.

“A space like this gives students a new avenue for personal connections,” she said. "Things like outside conservation — I don’t think they always have a direct opportunity to engage in first hand.”

Norton said the plan, which is currently only a concept, has exceeded her original vision.

“It’s been approved through the ranks of ASU, but It’s not going to happen until we get funding,” she said. “We have startup money, but the space that has been approved now is probably four or five times the size, so therefore it’s four to five times the cost.”

Norton has brought her plan to various student groups, and she said their reactions were positive and enthusiastic.

“They like the idea of something new happening on the Poly campus, and they like the idea of a cool urban green space,” she said. “They really like the idea of having more of a sense of place at Poly.”

Jim Coffman, a faculty associate at ASU, is also the president of Coffman Studios, the principal designers to prepare the master plan for the lot.

Coffman said the new site is designed to be an integral part of the campus.

“It’s a place that can be used by students and faculty and other people to grow and harvest food, and also to demonstrate different growing principles here in a more desert environment,” he said.

Coffman also said the design of The Lot would both complement the theme of the campus and bring a new look to it.

“It uses a lot of the same architectural elements and design materials that are used elsewhere on campus,” he said. “I wanted the garden to both look like it’s a part of the Poly campus, but also kind of draw some attention to itself in some unique ways.”

One of the spaces proposed is an area for individuals, small groups or large groups to convene.

“We’re using artistically-placed boulders to help define spaces where people can go, and the boulders are supposed to be reminiscent of natural desert environments,” he said. “I think that space alone is going to feel really unique and beautiful.”

Coffman said the design would also incorporate an old building on campus.

“I think it was looked at before as an ugly old building that’s been there a long time, but we looked at it and thought it was a cool vernacular building that we could repurpose,” he said. “I don’t know that even if it does gets re-purposed, it’ll be there forever, but I like the idea that it could have a purpose.”

Kaytlyn St Yves, a senior elementary education major and secretary for USG on the Polytechnic campus, said Norton has asked USGP for their opinions and suggestions for the project.

“Susan will come to us and ask us our opinion because we are here to advocate for students,” she said. “We definitely said 'use trees as much as you can, be careful with sunflowers that attract bees because they’re always an issue and if there’s an ability to have hammocks, or something like that.' We know students love hammocks.”

St Yves said if the project goes through, she thinks it will be a big advantage for students.

“I think having an outdoor space where you can study, read a book, listen to music and just be outside is a great idea,” she said. “I think students will really like a set area that’s just an open environment rather than being inside.”

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