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01-22-20 | Feature

The Intersection of Land Development and Reuse

by Andrea Pedersen, PLA, studio DPA

Designing a new housing development on the site of a former citrus farm in Phoenix called Navarro Groves, Studio DPA was able to salvage and reuse some of the original materials from the property. For instance, the weathered wood from the original farmhouse (left) trims the community ramadas' columns, which also feature new accent brick, and the corrugated roofs' gables. The roof and the steel frame was manufactured by Classic Recreation Systems.
Designing a new housing development on the site of a former citrus farm in Phoenix called Navarro Groves, Studio DPA was able to salvage and reuse some of the original materials from the property. For instance, the weathered wood from the original farmhouse (left) trims the community ramadas' columns, which also feature new accent brick, and the corrugated roofs' gables. The roof and the steel frame was manufactured by Classic Recreation Systems.
The re-used wood siding was also repurposed to trim the community entry gate, which includes a custom laser cut steel accent piece referencing an orange tree.
One of the ramada's gables was ornamented with the original frost protection propeller (inset) that itself was salvaged from an airplane.
One of the ramada's gables was ornamented with the original frost protection propeller (inset) that itself was salvaged from an airplane.
The site's developer Maracay Homes was instrumental in the effort to rescue some of the site's citrus trees. The designers and the development team walked the citrus farm prior to demolition, selected their favorites, and they were housed and protected in an onsite nursery during construction.
A digital image of the citrus farm's historic fruit crate art was screen-printed onto porcelain tiles that were installed at the entry monument and key amenity features.
The original irrigation weir equipment (inset) was repurposed into a water feature that resembled an old-fashioned well for the serenity garden, which is a passive park that also includes an outdoor kitchen and fire pit.
The original irrigation weir equipment (inset) was repurposed into a water feature that resembled an old-fashioned well for the serenity garden, which is a passive park that also includes an outdoor kitchen and fire pit.

The first step in the land development process is typically to wipe the slate clean. Bulldozers appear on the site, efficiently clearing and grubbing what is normally considered debris. The 'debris' is loaded into trucks and immediately hauled offsite.

This does not have to be the typical scenario. With some advance planning, a visionary land owner, and lots of creativity, land development teams can find a way to reuse, repurpose and upcycle a site's existing materials. Studio DPA, which Tim Daugherty, RLA, and I started five years ago, and the Maracay Homes development team were able to find a variety of re-use opportunities on a recent project in Phoenix.

Navarro Groves was a working citrus farm in Phoenix since the early 1940s. The project team was tasked with re-zoning the site from agricultural to a planned area development, and spent the next year or so working with the seller, the buyer, the city and the surrounding neighbors to develop a layout, design and theme.

During this process, I had the rare opportunity to get verbal site history from the land seller. I was lucky to have many good conversations with him - particularly since he joined me onsite to hold his dog while I explored the site's existing materials. He always said she was a friendly dog, but I was not swayed since she growled at me like any guard dog would.

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As a result of these conversations, I learned the small building that appeared to be a shed was actually the home that he lived in as a child starting in 1942. He told me that many of the citrus trees were over 75 years old. He also told me he had an image of the farms vintage fruit crate art which was used through the 1950s.

These conversations, in addition to public meetings with the neighbors, most of whom also lived in planned area communities but who treasured the farm, shed a light on what the theme of the newly developed site had to be. We decided on a modern twist on agrarian lifestyle and aesthetics, and named the project 'Navarro Groves' in homage to the family who worked this land for decades. The neighbors really liked the idea.

The site's historic materials were a key in our ability to achieve the project's theme. We were able to salvage and re-purpose: 1) the weathered wood off of the original farmhouse, 2) frost protection propeller which was actually salvaged from an airplane, 3) the irrigation weir equipment, 4) the vintage fruit crate art, and 5) many of the farm's citrus trees.

Studio DPA created the construction documents that detail the hardscape for the entry, the park and all of the common areas, as well as the irrigation and planting for the 24-acre site that now holds about 50 homes.

For us it was a very exciting project - really one of our favorites. We were happy to get to reuse a lot of the elements from the site and it was very well received - it sold well, and we are very happy about that.

As more infill projects are developed, the potential increases for a site to contain unique artifacts that would once be considered trash. The re-use of site materials saves space in the landfill. It also provides development teams the opportunity to create unique identities for each project, while preserving a piece of the site's historical ties to the community.

Team List
Owner: Maracay Homes, Guy Stuckey
Landscape Architect: Studio DPA
Civil Engineer: Kimley Horn, Andrew Jupp
Structural Engineer: Schneider Structural Engineers, Nick McLain
Electric Engineer: Wright Engineering, Clifford Tolman

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2020.

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