The city of Apache Junction, Arizona has a complicated relationship with the 125 mobile home and RV parks within its city limits. Some of the parks are well managed and provide an attractive, affordable option for low income residents. But many are deteriorating, unsightly and do not conform to contemporary city codes, presenting a detriment to Apache Junction’s image as it works to attract visitors and boost economic growth.
In an effort to address this, the city partnered with the new-at-the-time Arizona State University program Project Cities, a program launched in 2017 to “connect higher education with local communities, creating a powerful combination of knowledge and know-how.” Apache Junction was the inaugural community partner during the 2017–18 academic year and renewed its partnership through the spring 2019 semester.
As part of Project Cities and for her capstone project, graduate student Maggie Dellow performed extensive research and devised potential strategies to improve Apache Junction's mobile home parks. Dellow, a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning student, ultimately created a 235-page final report (condensed to 100 by Project Cities) for Apache Junction, detailing the complexity of the issue and outlining possible strategies the city could adopt to improve both mobile home parks and affordable housing.
Dellow’s report was so impressive that the city initiated the process of updating the zoning code with some of her strategic recommendations. She also received two awards from the American Planning Association: 2019 Outstanding Student from ASU and Best Student Planning Project from the APA’s Arizona Chapter. Dellow credits the Project Cities staff and her faculty advisers with her success, but Steve Russell, Project Cities’ program manager. was just as eager to sing her praises: “Maggie’s work was truly an exemplar of the kinds of successful local impacts the program aims to achieve.”
Currently, Project Cities is partnered with the city of Peoria and the town of Clarkdale. Students can get involved through a variety of class offerings from many disciplines. Additionally, Project Cities distributes a list of capstone project opportunities every semester, based on the community’s priorities. Students who wish to apply for one of these projects should reach out to Project[email protected] and ask to be added to the student interest list.
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