By Jeff Kronenfeld / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Superior, AZ) The Copper Corridor’s future looks a little brighter after residents of Superior got a first peek at their multigenerational center last night – one of the most notable examples of how a historic Arizona mining town is trying to combat population declines.
The campus, located on the site of the historic former Superior High School, will house offices for the town government, the library, and the Superior Enterprise Center (SEC). The multigenerational center will also bring a gym, commercial kitchen, and other amenities meant to help the community’s revitalization efforts.
In 1990, Superior was home to 3,468 people. By 2010, this figure had dropped to 2,837. However, the 2020 U.S. Census found the town had grown to 3,120, with the SEC intent on continuing this positive trend.
Envisioning a more sustainable future
The SEC has a mission to catalyze and diversify Superior’s economy through workforce training and business services, with a focus on helping entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is the result of a collaboration between the non-profit Rebuild Superior, Inc., the town government, and Resolution Copper, a nearby proposed mine.
“We want to make sure that whatever we do is sustainable,” said Arlynn Godinez, director of the SEC. “As the town looked forward and began thinking about what's going to happen, they understood the significance of entrepreneurship and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, as well as supporting small businesses and making our downtown area as easy to work with as possible in order to draw the tourists and to help our small businesses grow."
Founded roughly a year ago, Rebuild Superior hosts the Superior Small Business Meetup, a monthly get-together where small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs gather to network, receive training, and participate in other programs.
This month’s meetup toured the SEC’s future home in what was once the historic school’s technical building. It will include a range of tools to help entrepreneurs build prototypes, including welding equipment and a 3D printer. It will also feature coworking spaces, classrooms, and a maker’s space. The first part of the SEC slated for completion is the welding project.
“We want to be that one-stop shop for more than just Superior, but for the entire Copper Corridor,” Godinez said. “If somebody has an idea, they can come to us and they can get just about anything they need in order to move that idea forward.”
More than a mine
The historic Superior |High School was built in 1924. It consists of four buildings with a total of 22,000-square feet. It was sold to the prominent local Latter-day Saint family of Elijah Cardon in the early 2000s, according to Godinez.
Roughly $4.5 million was needed to acquire and renovate the campus. These funds were raised through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agricultural, an earmark from Arizona’s legislature, and a donation from Resolution Copper.
The multigenerational center’s gym will be located in what were once locker rooms next to an indoor basketball court. One room will house aerobic exercise equipment and the other weightlifting equipment.
The facility’s commercial kitchen will not only be used to prepare meals for seniors but will also provide a space for potential restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs to experiment and produce food products.
Renovation efforts are ongoing, with construction currently focused on preparing the new space for the Superior Public Library, which will roughly double its current square footage.
The town hopes to move its town manager, mayor, engineer, and front office into the renovated space this January.