Phoenix artist Matt Moore and restaurateur Aric Mei are collaborating on a new project called The Farm at Los Olivos.
The project includes creating an urban farm at Los Olivos Park, where they’ll also present art, educational programs, and dining experiences.
Located at 2802 East Devonshire Avenue, just north of Indian School Road at 28th Street, the park is already home to a senior center, playground, and vast expanse of grassy space.
Signs currently posted at the park alert community members to project details and ways they can share their input, including an open house happening on Tuesday, February 27.
City officials say they'll need community support to move the project forward. Moore hopes they get a great turnout from people who embrace the urban farm plan, because he's concerned a small but vocal minority could derail it.
Moore and Mei conceived the project after the city put out the call for urban farm proposals in May 2017. The duo already dreamed of creating a working urban farm together, so they ran with the idea.
“It’s a social, entrepreneurial program that promotes sustainability,” Moore says of the urban farm concept. “Good on the City of Phoenix Parks Department for coming up with this.”
City officials reviewed all proposals and selected Mei and Moore's Greenbelt Hospitality, which creates dining experiences in urban farm settings, to create and operate the urban farm.
They're uniquely qualified for a few reasons.
Moore is a fourth-generation farmer and artist whose work explores land use and sustainability. Mei founded The Parlor, a pizzeria in the Camelback corridor that’s garnered national accolades.
Both are experienced in urban adaptive reuse.
Mei designed the new iteration of Phoenix Public Market, located inside a former grocery store building, in Roosevelt Row in 2013.
Moore and his wife, artist Carrie Marill, created an adaptive reuse project called the Project Space, where ASU Art Museum has housing, studios, and exhibition space for visiting artists.
Moore's also involved with the Ro2 mixed-use development in Roosevelt Row, where he’ll design and create a vertical urban garden.
But currently, Moore’s focus is working with Mei to bring The Farm at Los Olivos to fruition.
The project will include a two-acre organic farm, a market farm stand, a full-service farm-to-table restaurant, and indoor/outdoor educational programming, according to details posted on the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department website.
The farm will occupy no more than 4.5 acres of the 26-acre park. It will sit on the northwest corner of the park, bordering parts of 28th Street and Glenrosa Avenue.
No city funds will be used to create or operate it, but the city will share in the farm’s revenues after the first few years of operation. Greenbelt Hospitality will sign a 20-year land lease with the city, with the option for two additional 10-year leases, according to the parks website.
Moore says he's concerned that a vocal minority could derail the project. City officials won't move forward with The Farm at Los Olivos without a clear demonstration of community support.
And that's prompted several people to take action.
Phoenix artist Carolyn Lavender, whose studio is located near the park, has been rallying support for The Farm through social media and handouts featuring project details.
Ashley Nye launched an online petition at Change.org, As of Sunday, February 25, it had more than 4,000 signatures. But Moore hopes people who want The Farm will also contact the mayor and City Council members directly, by phone or e-mail.
And, he's encouraging them to head to the Devonshire Senior Center during the final open house for the project, which happens from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27.
Here’s why that’s important.
In September 2017, the Parks and Recreation board “authorized city staff to negotiate a contract with Greenbelt Development LLC, contingent upon public support for the project,” according to the city’s website.
Representatives from several city departments, including parks and recreation, street transportation, and planning and development, will be at the February 27 meeting to share details and answer questions.
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Next up will be a March 22 meeting of the Parks and Recreation board, where members will vote on whether or not to approve The Farm at Los Olivos.
Moore is hoping for a good turnout there, as well. “Getting people to the parks meeting is the whole deal,” he says.
Moore is optimistic about the project, assuming plenty of people come out to show their support in coming days and weeks.
“We’re trying to remain positive and press on,” Moore says.