Students in Katya Crawford and Cory Greenfield’s Competition Studio in the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning won the Better Philadelphia Challenge, an international competition to challenge university students from around the world to address real-world urban design issues in Philadelphia that have implications in that city and to urban centers globally.

Approximately 500 individuals and groups, as well as professionals, submitted materials for the competition.

“It was a short time frame – three week – competition,” Crawford said. The challenge was to address the Mantua/Belmont neighborhoods in terms of development to undertake physical design interventions that encourage healthy and active lifestyles that would improve public health for the residents.

“This area was President Obama’s first ‘Promise Zones’ for economic development,” she said. This project was one of only five that were designated. “The city is behind the project and federal money is available to implement the plan,” Crawford said.

The neighborhood was selected because of its challenges: low income, high crime rates, poverty, vacant buildings and homelessness. “There is a steady pulse in the neighborhood with many grassroots organizations and an art community,” she said.

The student team included Beverly Fisher, Wendi Fox, Michael Pace and Madeleine Aguilar. Their project, titled Hand + Hand, proposed working with the existing organizations, growing upon their strength with a phased in plan, Crawford said.

Their idea involved deploying yellow vans throughout the neighborhood. “The trucks would be equipped in various ways to address needs of the community. One could serve as a clinic and provide needle exchanges, another could be a food truck, one could be equipped with tools that someone could rent,” Crawford said.

An anchor location for the trucks would be set up. “Other trucks could be established, as needed.  It won because it was simple, well-conceived and doable,” Crawford said.

The team received a $5,000 prize and $1,000 for travel to receive the prize. Fisher, who took responsibility for submitting the materials for the competition, will travel to Philadelphia with her teammates to receive the award on Thursday, Feb. 25.

“I would go, too,” Crawford said, “if it weren’t on the heels of accreditation!”