The Del Rio landfill at 1150 E. Elwood St., which closed in 1981, has been inactive for 40 years, but will now become home to Phoenix's first agricultural innovation center. The developers met with the Phoenix City Council's Workforce and Economic Development Subcommittee on September 23, 2020 to discuss the details of the upcoming project.
Arizona Fresh Holdings, LLC, entered into a license agreement with the city back in June, according to Phoenix City Council reports. They will begin production of the Arizona Fresh: Agri-Food Innovation Center in phases, with the first phase expected to roll out in 2022.
Four other proposals, including a golf concept and a solar research facility, were considered, but the Arizona Fresh Center was ultimately chosen for the mixed-use opportunities and the benefits it provides to the south Phoenix community.
"The panel did select Arizona Fresh really based on its ability to provide the most areas that the community was interested in receiving," said Christine Mackay, the City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development Director.
Mackay expanded on some of the benefits the planned phases bring. Phase one developments will include a wholesale produce farmer's market, educational programs and potentially a pedestrian community park. Both national and local sellers will have the opportunity to distribute produce at the Arizona Fresh Center. In the following phases, south Phoenix residents can expect to see an agricultural food research center, an incubator and test fields as well as additional space for offices, restaurants and retail businesses.
Phase one will also introduce research centers focusing on sustainability, nutrition, food safety and food innovation. Mackay said several Arizona universities have already committed to on-site research collaboration centers with Arizona Fresh.
"Think of this landfill now as a living lab for a farm to market supply chain," Mackay said.
A community events and entertainment center, including a public amphitheater, will also be included in phase one.
This type of center has long been a desire for the south Phoenix area.
"It's something amazing," said Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski of District 7. "It's something that is really needed for south Phoenix, especially on the banks of the river. Ever since Congressman Pastor allocated all that funding for Rio Salado, this is one of those projects that I think he would be very proud of."
Councilman Nowakowski was not alone in mentioning Congressman Ed Pastor, whose legacy still impacts Arizona and helped make a concept like this achievable.
"I would be remiss if I didn't state that it all started with Congressman Pastor and his vision to bring funding into the Rio Salado area," Mackay said.
Councilwoman Laura Pastor, the daughter of the late congressman, also mentioned her father's impact.
"This was a dream of my father's," Pastor said. "I didn't realize that until the last two years — in talking with my mom — that this was his vision that started in college."
A study done by Elliot D. Pollack & Company, an economic consulting firm, showed that the Arizona Fresh: Agri-Food Innovation Center will generate 1,500 jobs and an estimated $868.6 million annually for the city.
"The fact that this is an agricultural center that has the ability to integrate that into the community, especially in our South Mountain community where that's important. … It's exciting to see," Pastor said. "I'm grateful that we were able to partner up with a great collaboration and partners to continue the vision. I'm very excited."