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Growing life and community at Primera Iglésia

Volunteers help at a rain garden and tree pruning workshop at Primera Iglesia near downtown Phoenix, 2015.Just four years ago, Primera Iglésia United Methodist Church baked in the sun on a dry and dusty lot in south central Phoenix. The church wanted to be a beacon in this neglected corner of the city, but it didn’t have the curb appeal. Then, in 2011, they won WMG’s first green infrastructure grant for Phoenix—and the transformation began.

Over the ensuing years, WMG Phoenix has organized several workshops to reshape the landscape into a water-harvesting oasis. We installed curb cuts and cores along the church’s cross streets of 1st Street and Grant, which channel stormwater into streetside basins to nourish trees and grow much needed shade. Phoenix Co-op members, neighbors, and business partners pitched in to shape the basins, plant the trees, and spread mulch.

Today, the Primera Iglésia campus is a green and welcoming environment. Where there was once blowing trash and broken glass, there is now a shaded corridor filled with wildlife and the bright yellow blossoms of Palo Verde trees. The transformation has not gone unnoticed in the neighborhood and seems to be inspiring others. During our recent maintenance workshop, a neighbor, Mr. Ontiveras, stopped by to help out. We learned he was constructing a straw bale house just four blocks away. “Things are starting to happen in this neighborhood,” Ontiveras said, “and I want to be part of it.”

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