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Phoenix Community Alliance Announces 2022 Center City Award Winners

by Taylor Costello
Community Phoenix Community Alliance Taylor Costello December 15, 2022

Since 1993, Phoenix Community Alliance’s Center City Awards have recognized those individuals who have made immeasurable contributions to their community through service and advocacy.

In a ceremony held at The Churchill on Thursday, Phoenix Community Alliance membership awarded Jim McPherson and Jessie Ponce with the Center City Champion and Center City Newcomer awards, respectively.

McPherson, the Principal Consultant for McPherson & Associates, is a prominent affordable housing and historic preservation advocate, visible at the forefront of many local initiatives in his decades of public service. He is a fierce advocate for providing stable and consistent funding mechanisms, like the State Parks Heritage Fund, to prioritize historic preservation. McPherson is also heavily involved in PCA’s Social and Housing Advancement Committee.

“I’m somewhat of a behind-the-scenes guy, so such overt recognition is rather jarring,” said McPherson. “But, if this award encourages others with a similar mindset to keep plugging away at what they’ve dreamed about and worked on for months and months or years and years, that’s a good thing.”

Phoenix Community Alliance membership awarded Jim McPherson and Jessie Ponce with the Center City Champion and Center City Newcomer awards at a ceremony at The Churchill, pictured Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Taylor Costello)

In the two and a half years since Jessie Ponce opened The Greater Good Barbershop at 181 N. Central Ave., he’s positioned his business as a hub for community building, using the shop as a photo gallery, a workshop for aspiring barbers and beyond. He has also focused on providing support for individuals experiencing homelessness, like free haircuts.

Ponce was nominated for Center City Newcomer Award by last year’s recipient and this year’s host, Churchill owner Kell Duncan.

In 2020, the Center City Awards split into two prizes, recognizing the works of “Newcomers” and legacy “Champions”. PCA commissioned local sculptor Joan Waters to fabricate a unique award—a literal work of art—for each Center City Award winner.

Prior to the 2020 Annual Member Meeting, the awards were branded as the Center City Starr Awards, a namesake of past PCA Board Chair and prolific community leader Barry Starr.

Formed in 1983, Phoenix Community Alliance is a business advocacy organization focused on connectivity and collaboration between businesses, urbanists, non-profits and government agencies to collectively build a thriving Phoenix.

“The transition of Phoenix Community Alliance primarily focusing on city-building to also prioritizing community-building has been great to see and participate in,” said McPherson. “You can see it in the growing, active membership and committees tackling local issues demanding action where business, government, nonprofits, and private citizens work together as equals to help get things done.”

Learn more about the 2022 Center City Award Recipients:

2022 Center City Newcomer Award

Jessie Ponce is the owner of The Greater Good barbershop located at 818 N. Central Ave. In addition to providing haircuts, the shop is also the host of gallery space for artists and Ponce provides workshops for aspiring barbers. He has also focused on providing free haircuts for people experiencing homelessness.

2022 Center City Champion Award

Jim McPherson is the Principal Consultant at McPherson & Associates. Across a three-decade career with the City of Phoenix, McPherson a passionate advocate for historic preservation and a fixture at PCA’s Social, Housing Advancement Committee. He serves the community on the boards of Downtown Voices Coalition, Arizona Preservation Foundation, Arizona Heritage Alliance and countless others.

Jim McPherson and Jessie Ponce pose with artist Joan Waters, the fabricator of their Center City Awards, after PCA’s Annual Member Meeting. (Photo by Taylor Costello)