After a 15-year career working in the nonprofit sector and seeing companies swoop in for a one-time volunteer event or participate in a big check presentation, North 32nd resident Lori Motola knew there was a better way for businesses and nonprofits to collaborate; one that could benefit companies and employees and create lasting change in local communities.
COVID-19 hit one month after she finally quit her job to work on her new company, Our Urban Village, full time. Motola decided that since she was in the business of doing good, she should do it – even if small businesses couldn’t afford her services. She knew that then (and still now) more than ever, small businesses, nonprofits and people needed help. Her philosophy is that “if we put the good first, the business will come.”
“It was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach, so to speak,” says Motola.
Since launching her company, Our Urban Village has worked with partners to implement a public mural, coordinated a food distribution program, and teamed up with ASU to study the impact of public art. Her most recent project is the development of a resident garden at Villa Hermosa, a recently renovated apartment community in Phoenix.
In all partnerships, whether short term or long term, Motola says she works with clients to create a custom social responsibility strategy, then plan and execute impactful events or programs that align with that strategy.
“I was on the hunt for a forward-thinking developer willing to create an onsite garden. I was introduced to Neighborhood Ventures through a mutual connection who thought this community based investing company could benefit from my input as they embarked on the renovation of Villa Hermosa, a 12-unit apartment building near 10th Street and Bethany Home Road,” says Motola.
Together, Our Urban Village and Neighborhood Ventures designed a garden that enhances the property and serves as an engaging community focal point, improving the Villa Hermosa living experience and supplying fresh food to both residents and the community.
“Villa Hermosa isn’t your typical apartment building,” says Motola. “It’s actually owned in part by 165 Arizonans who collectively invested a total of $1 million to purchase, renovate, and ultimately sell the building for a profit. It’s part of the growing trend in a new investment opportunity: real estate crowdfunding, which I had never heard about until I got involved with Neighborhood Ventures.”
“With an apartment building that’s owned by the community, it only makes sense that we would want to create a sense of community for our residents as well,” says Neighborhood Ventures Lead Designer Rocky Petersen, who spearheaded the project with Our Urban Village. “I can’t say enough about Lori’s passion and drive. As a result of our working with Lori, we redesigned Villa Hermosa from a standard hardscape to include a community garden with a sitting area for residents to be able to enjoy nature’s bounty, even in an urban setting.”
The garden includes four irrigated raised planter beds that will be planted with seasonal vegetables, a grapefruit tree, lemon tree, and two orange trees. Residents will maintain the boxes, harvest what they can use, and Neighborhood Ventures will harvest and donate the remainder to local food banks.
“We’re excited about our garden, and it feels great to be a part of building better communities and stronger connections to our environment,” says Petersen.
To learn more about Our Urban Village, visit oururbanvillage.com.