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How a former landfill in south Phoenix will become a food innovation hub

Construction will soon get underway for a food innovation center at the site of a former landfill in south Phoenix. 

Tuesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking south of the Rio Salado launches the first phase of development — a 20-acre public park and a year round marketplace connecting Mexican food producers directly with Phoenix produce businesses and consumers. Developers for Arizona Fresh: Agri-Food Innovation Center envision a regional hub to improve efficiency and reduce food waste.

“This project not only is going to bring jobs, economic development, innovation, that’s going to help the entire region, but it’s also going to help do right by the wrongs that were done in this area,” said Councilmember Carlos Garcia. “We’re literally going to turn the landfill — or land that you’re standing on now — that it’s deemed unusable into something that’s going to produce imagination, that’s going to bring food, that’s going to allow our communities to come together and support each other.”

Future development phases on the 140-acre site will include education programs, along with research resources like test fields and a living lab to study farm to market supply chain.

In 2020, the Phoenix City Council selected Arizona Fresh Holdings LLC to develop the mixed-use project after decades of discussion over the site's future between the Rio Salado and Elwood Street from roughly Seventh to 16th streets. 

"This current City Council is very lucky to be here today. Generations of city councils in the city have been working to bring this site forward," said Mayor Kate Gallego. "It's a piece of land that has captured imagination for many mayors and councils and we have seen proposals of everything from an amusement part to a golf course, but I think we got it right with the future of food coming right through this particular site."

More information about Arizona Fresh: Agri-Food Innovation Center is at the phoenix.gov/econdev/delrio.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.