South Central Collaborative: Q&A with Facilitator Shannon Scutari

South Central Collaborative: Q&A with Facilitator Shannon Scutari

The Raza Development Fund is proud to partner with the South Central Collaborative – a group ensuring the community’s voice and ideas are heard in a transit-oriented development project in Phoenix.

The light rail runs through Downtown Phoenix. Photo courtesy of

Ever since the light rail was introduced to Phoenix in 2008, we’ve seen the benefits it has brought to the city as well as the unfortunate consequences it can have on residents and local businesses. In 2016, the City of Phoenix received funding to extend the light rail 5.5 miles along Central Avenue to Baseline Road in South Phoenix with an expected project completion in 2024.

Together, the Collaborative is saving trees, boosting local artists and architects, supporting youth and adult workforce development, protecting and promoting the interests of residents and business owners and so much more. As RDF strives to provide capital to create better opportunities for our communities it more than makes sense for us to provide funding and support to the Collaborative’s work.

Shannon Scutari, President & Facilitator of the South Central Collaborative

While the Collaborative is more than just one person, it is led by President and Facilitator, Shannon Scutari. As a lawyer with an MBA and experience as an advisor to governors and other public officials and business leaders, Shannon brings her expertise to the Collaborative to handle everything from contracts and negotiations to initiating collaborative partnerships, advocating for systems change and implementing projects and programs that put community leaders at the forefront of public and private decision making.

We are grateful to have some time with Shannon to explore the South Central Collaborative’s important work in this Q&A.

What is the South Central Collaborative?

We are a community of professionals, residents, artists, advocates, neighborhood leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners that work hard to ensure the South Central light rail project is a true neighborhood enhancement project.

How do rail projects impact communities? 

Click on the image above to learn more about the Collaborative’s four initiatives.

Rail projects are planned, designed and built-in areas that have a high transit ridership and demand, particularly within communities that have challenges with car ownership and that will greatly benefit from connectivity to transportation options. However, the unintended consequences can include displacement of current residents and businesses and gentrification of existing neighborhoods. These rail infrastructures typically raise surrounding property values and may impact housing affordability – just at a time when transit and mobility options provide community members with affordable access to jobs, schools, healthcare, open space, recreation, and community events.

The South Central Collaborative worked with local officials and Valley Metro to ensure local artists, like Martin Moreno and Emily Costello (pictured) were utilized for the light rail project.

The South Central Collaborative works with its government partners to improve public processes by putting the voice and desires of the community front and center. Our partners have a wealth of public, private and community advocacy expertise. By working together, we have launched numerous initiatives that are tackling the South Central displacement and gentrification challenges.

Ultimately, we strive to ensure the $1.3 billion light rail project benefits the community by keeping the financial resources and resulting economic impact in the South Central Corridor for the use and enjoyment of the people who have made Central City South and South Phoenix their home for many generations.

Who is a part of the Collaborative?

The South Central Collaborative is all about the people.  We are grateful to work alongside the RDF team through the leadership of Tommy Espinoza, RDF’s President & CEO, as well as our Collaborative Board of Directors and Advisory Board to create initiatives and partnerships that lead to positive outcomes and systems change.

Specifically, the architects and builders of this important work are:

  • Francisca Montoya, RDF’s Director of Community Development & Special Projects

    Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona, leads a discussion on the light rail plans in 2018.
  • Star Reyes, RDF’s Client Services Manager
  • Victor Vidales (St. Catherine’s Square / SoPho Convening)
  • Eva Olivas & Jessica Bueno (Phoenix Revitalization Corporation)
  • Sam Gomez (Executive Director of The Sagrado Galleria)
  • Pastor Jeffrey Walker (Tonto Church of Christ)
  • Armando Ruiz (Espiritu Community Development Corp.)
  • Petra Falcon (Executive Director of Promise Arizona)
  • Krista Shepherd (Gould Evans)
  • Tom Kelly (Foundation for Senior Living)
  • Jordan Jacques (Owner of South Mountain Services)
  • Gabriel Jaramillo (Vitalyst)
  • Princess Crump (Carver Museum & Cultural Center)
  • Javier Espinoza (SoPho Convening)
  • Jose Vaquera (Friendly House)
  • Partners from the City of Phoenix and Valley Metro

And of course, Mayor Kate Gallego, Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari, Councilman Carlos Garcia, Councilwoman Deb Stark, Vice Mayor Laura Pastor and the 50+ public, private, non-profit and philanthropic partners that make up the entire South Central Collaborative have been invaluable to its success.  We are proud to have the leadership and support of these community champions.

How has RDF’s support impacted the Collaborative?

Tom Espinoza, RDF’s President & CEO, sits with community members to discuss the light rail project in South Phoenix. Photo by Phil Soto.

RDF is an exceptional founding partner and has provided funding for the execution, facilitation, and growth of the Collaborative. RDF is a true collaborator – committing long term funding and staffing resources to build and empower its community partners to succeed and soar on their own terms.

Our Project for Public Spaces statement articulates the foundational principles that ignite the love and passion behind the Collaborative’s many successes: “With community-based participation at its center, an effective community development process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well-being.”

RDF is a trailblazer in fueling community-based participation that results in community development projects and initiatives owned, operated, scaled, improved and enhanced by the residents impacted by them.

What else should the public know about the Collaborative?

The Collaborative is working hard to support small businesses affected by the light rail construction.

All of this doesn’t happen without the support of the residents, self-determination and community empowerment. It is imperative that the needs of the residents and business owners are front and center in decisions that greatly impact their lives, families and livelihoods.

It is an incredible honor to work with all the South Central Collaborative partners – they truly want the best for South Central and they work hard every day to earn and maintain the trust of its community members. The mark of authentic and successful collaboration is when residents and business owners feel comfortable sharing their stories, challenges, and successes with us and they know we are their trusted advocates and partners. We want them to know our coalition is working to challenge the status quo, take risks, and push for changes that will hopefully improve their lives and their communities.  Inspired by a collaborative spirit, we hope to achieve and authentic trust that will help us create and sustain a thriving South Central community.  That mission fuels our passion for this work now and for the long term.

Learn more about the Collaboratives accomplishments and initiatives.