AGD’s Relationship with Guadalupe, California
On October 24, 2017, I stood in a gymnasium at the Boys and Girls Club in Guadalupe, California with a dozen community members and a tall and slender British gentleman trying to conceive of a way to bring life back to LeRoy Park in that very community. With post-it notes, sharpies, a site plan, and a lot of love, we set out to understand what the community leaders wanted for this small town. Guadalupe sits south of Pismo Beach and West of Santa Maria on a pristine coastline of sand dunes and farmland on the California Central Coast. With a downtown of beautiful early 20th century buildings and a history of being a location of film sets like Charleston Heston’s Ten Commandments, the town has struggled to continue to foster economic development while preserving a beautiful culture rich with community. I just kept thinking to myself, “why am I one of the only architects answering the call?”
AGD spent a few weeks working up design ideas and images of what the park and community center “could” be so that Tom Brandeberry (the British gentleman) could work on a grant application to get funding from Community Development Block Grant program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The heavy lifting was done by Tom as he worked tirelessly for over a year and completed two separate applications until in November 2018, we were told the community center and park project was funded. This was such an amazing surprise. Through a Request for Proposal process and a few interviews, the AGD team was awarded the project that started as a pro-bono job to imagine what could be. We never thought that the idea of what could be, would become what is, and will be.
AGD’s project management team of Michael Demartini, Brianna Stelfox, and myself were able to partner with Taylor & Syfan Consulting Engineers, Wallace Group, GECE, 3C Engineering, Geosolutions, and Earth Systems to design and engineer the remodel and addition of the existing community center, a new playground and park restroom building, and a new park and parking lot for the existing property. The building will now serve as a community center, an emergency shelter, and a place to make many memories for the residence of Guadalupe. The park will help to bring life back to the many events and celebrations that used to be prevalent and desperately seek to be normalized again post-pandemic. AGD seeks to provide spaces for transformational living.
Fast forward three years, and AGD has grown from the small 400 square foot office that bred the design ideas for the LeRoy Park Community Center. Our fifteen-member firm with four times more square footage is at it again in Guadalupe. The truth is, we never left, and the beauty, culture, and community has touched the hearts of so many of our employees. Today, we now sit four weeks from a deadline to submit plans for the preservation, rehabilitation, and addition to the infamous Royal Theater in that very downtown. Our team has again answered the call and is envisioning what a new visual arts center can do to hold the city up and shine new light on a stage that has been empty for decades. Again, we started in a pro-bono capacity and competed to win another amazing project. With a history of theater and film, Guadalupe is embarking on a venture to educate the new generations on this history while sparking the imagination of what careers in the field could be for the community of this city. Guadalupe is a beautiful example of what a bit of optimism and community investment could bring, and we believe that years from now we will be citing this city as a precedent of cultural reinvestment in small towns in America.
Creating opportunity through innovative economic and sustainable investment does not mean you have to create new, exciting, or technologically advanced businesses. Sometimes, the best investment is to look at what you have, who you share it with, and why it’s important to others and just bring it back to life. We believe in community first before the project. Place and space are just as important for creating community, but never forget that a community is nothing without people.
Written by Andrew Goodwin