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renderings by winslow + partners

Surprise Heritage District
Surprise, AZ

The Need for Connection and Community Centered Design 

© winslow + partners 2020, all rights reserved 

Connection and Community Centered Design seem to be the buzz words of the moment, especially, when many developers are trying to address the loneliness epidemic of the housing market. 

Our understanding of future trends has enabled us to design urban spaces and mixed use, aimed at creating Connection and Community through intentional design. An example of this work is the conceptual design for the City of Surprise Heritage District completed in 2016.

We started by understanding the strong heritage of the neighborhood and the strong sense of community in the area. The program from the City included an amalgam of uses, from City community services to apartments, commercial offices and retail. To reinforce the idea of community and connection, the design was focused around a series of courtyards that were also created to house community-events.


RFP, Community Outreach, Master Plan, Conceptual Design, City Council Approval


Surprise, AZ


Conceptual Design 2016

We imagined areas for pop-up businesses and incorporated some built-in canopies for vendors and an outdoor presentation venue that could serve as a stage for mariachis or movie nights at the park. There are paved areas connecting the main plaza to smaller courtyards, with the idea that art shows or other community festivals could take place there. The tallest buildings, apartments with restaurants on the ground floor, house offices and other retail are facing the significant highway traffic along Grand Avenue, in order to make it a visual focal point. With restaurants and some live-work spaces, to provide a diversity of living and working opportunities. 

​The opposite end of the development is focused on the original, Hispanic neighborhood, with a formal entrance and promenade through the complex, to the festival courtyards. Preserving the neighborhood created ball field and retention of the City swimming pool were a gesture to the existing neighbors. Because of the strong Hispanic heritage of the community, the complex was unified through a contemporary Mexican character, which included illustrations that would show how simple modifications to many of the homes adjacent, could have details added to unify the old with the new. 

Through the discussions with the City, a streetscape strategy was developed, with the idea that it would cross the neighborhood and serve as a pedestrian connector to the very successful TechCelerator located on the opposite side to the original township. The goal of this community centered design was to create as much opportunity for economic development and support both the existing residents and businesses. Because there does not exist another “place” within Surprise, the expectation that city-wide celebrations would likely be held there, would make it a place that all residents in Surprise could relate to. 

A strategic weaving of multiple uses to create connections that enhanced the community and ultimately created opportunities for economic development by connecting the existing with the new. With different elements of life being disrupted due to technology at an ever-faster pace, our prediction is that the need for connection and community oriented design will become more important in the years to come.



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