Paving a path to the future: Peoria teams with ASU to improve city

Posted 6/26/19

By Philip Haldiman

Independent Newsmedia

At least 150 Arizona State University students will descend upon Peoria over the next year with the goal to pave a path to a better future for the …

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Paving a path to the future: Peoria teams with ASU to improve city


By Philip Haldiman

Independent Newsmedia

At least 150 Arizona State University students will descend upon Peoria over the next year with the goal to pave a path to a better future for the city.

Students from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability will team-up with city staff to participate in the Project Cities program to deliver sustainability research, education, and solutions with practical, measurable and meaningful impact.

Past projects in other Arizona municipalities have included the development of sustainability standards and a business district revitalization plan.

Neighborhood Services Manager Jay Davies said the partnership is expected to last 12-24 months, and faculty and students will work on some of Peoria’s most promising opportunities where they will provide hands-on research, design and deliverables to five projects.

“One of the keys to this partnership is to go beyond our existing resources and leverage these students’ energy, enthusiasm and innovation to explore and develop approaches  to complex questions we face as a progressive city,” he said.

The Peoria City Council approved an agreement with ASU to expire in three years outlining the parameters, including compensation payable to ASU that shall not exceed $50,000.

Project Cities Program Manager Steven Russell said the partnership will leverage city resources by pairing faculty and students from ASU with city staff to collaborate on five projects:

  • Water conservation and shortage response plan;
  • Community-wide placemaking/parks and recreation survey;
  • Transit circulator best practices;
  • Smart-city technology and innovation feasibility study;
  • Sustainability training module.

Project Cities Program Manager Steven Russell said the program aims to improve the quality of life for residents by bringing cross-disciplinary collaboration and research-backed solutions to complex municipal sustainable challenges.

Additionally, he said, the program adds value to the ASU students’ learning experience by providing real-world applications to each chosen student’s field of study.

The idea is to bring the classroom into the real world, he said.

“The project leverages relationships across the university to match city-proposed projects with complementary classes,” Mr. Russell said.

“We then take care of the leg work to set up those projects and then provide ongoing logistical support  and resources to enrich the experience.”

One area of focus will be smart-city technology, which gathers data to improve services, businesses and the lives of residents.

Final goals could end in improving efficiencies ranging from energy to transportation.

“First we would identify buckets of technology and look at areas where new technology will interface with the municipality and the private sector. Students will address what the current state of that group of technologies might be,” he said.

“We are looking forward to making some pretty cool things happen for the city of Peoria.”

Over the last year, the city of Glendale partnered with Project Cities to focus on sustainability and digital media.

The partnership produced standards for government buildings that use low carbon systems, techniques, and materials, and conserve water, energy, and land — to create standards for building design consultants and contractors to work toward.

Students also created a comprehensive social media program and strategy to help the city communicate with its constituencies about city issues, events and initiatives.

Students developed a strategy that identifies diverse audiences as well as appropriate strategies, plans, and platforms for reaching targeted audiences while observing the digital media policy.

Glendale spokesman Jay Crandall said additional projects included assessing sustainability options for the city's facility master plan, identifying recommendations to transition to an electric fleet, and developing an above ground chemical storage tank inventory and compliance report.

"Working with the students in the respective disciplines has been a very rewarding experience for our individual project managers," Mr. Crandall said. "The student’s observations have provided some interesting insights and a baseline for advancing strategic initiatives, and has provided the city with the opportunity to engage with students about careers in local government to encourage a pipeline of future talent."

Mayor Cathy Carlat said the Project Cities program will bring Peoria to the cutting edge and move the city seamlessly into the future.

“These are all really great projects that are gong to make our city better. I certainly appreciate knowing that so much brain power will go into them,” she said.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697,, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.


Project Cities

The Project Cities program in Peoria will focus on five projects:

  • Water conservation and shortage response plan
  • Community-wide placemaking/parks and recreation survey
  • Transit circulator best practices
  • Smart city technology and innovation feasibility study
  • Sustainability training module