New Public Green Space at City High -Thanks to Tucson’s Helping Hands

May 22, 2015


Raised garden beds and shade cloth create a great environment for an urban garden.

By Cristina Manos

Many hands around Tucson reached out to join in the effort to turn the alley at City High into what is now called “Sustainable Laboratory Urban Garden” or SLUG. What was once a dull Downtown alley has now been converted into a chic green space for having or growing lunch. The site-specific design ensures sustainability while adding character and color.

SLUG was made possible by the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape architecture (CAPLA), UA’s Sustainable City Project, Paulo Frieire Freedom School and of course, City High students and faculty. The project started last fall and is an ongoing, living “urban agriculture laboratory.” It’s a meeting place, an educational hub, a place for play, a garden space, and an attractive example of urban space repurposed for sustainability.

On Friday, May 15, the finished design was embellished with plants and vines, thanks to the helping hands of students and faculty from CAPLA and City High, as well as family and friends. City High students Alfredo Vasquez, 15, and Johanna Hand, 17, have been involved with project-SLUG from the outset. For City High students, the alley is the only schoolyard they have, and it’s gone from an uninhabitable space to an attractive, multi-purpose Downtown nook.

City High students Alfredo Vasquez and Johanna Hand are enjoying the green space they helped create.

City High students Alfredo Vasquez and Johanna Hand are enjoying the green space they helped create.

This is an amazing space,” Hand says. “The goal was to make the space fun and sustainable, and to educate ourselves and the greater community on how important sustainability is.”

The students have been brainstorming with the U of A team all year, and after summer break they will start planning again in the fall, according to Vasquez. “It’s all one big experiment,” he says.

During the summer months a few student volunteers, including Americorps VISTA Member Leah Farbstein, will keep the plants in good condition with regular maintenance.

So many Tucsonans are helping transform Downtown into a place where every building, every corner and every alley has something special to offer. A special thanks goes out to CAPLA and Paulo Frieire Freedom School from City High School Principal Carrie Brennan for the funding that made SLUG possible.

Stop by the alley at City High while on your Downtown adventures and experience the new and refreshing atmosphere. It’s sure to spark ideas for what can be done at home, or in your own neighborhood to repurpose space using creative designs, strategic gardening, and artistic application.