Bottom Line: Green Infrastructure is Worth It

WDG was fortunate to work on two pilot projects this past summer with Pima County and Autocase. Autocase is a company that develops software which analyzes the triple bottom line cost benefit for projects. The software is especially useful for green infrastructure (GI) projects, where analyzing the long-term cost/benefits of GI has been historically difficult.

The two projects were Meander Bend Park (a park adjacent to the Santa Cruz River) and the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center (a building and parking lot with few outdoor amenities). WDG designed a concept for each project which was then analyzed with Autocase. Thanks to Autocase for featuring this work on their website!

The results were quite impressive. Meander Bend Park is projected to have environmental and social benefits that are 6 times the costs of capital expenses and operation and maintenance. The concept for the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center forecasts a triple bottom line net present value of $1.13 million over a 50-year period.

Above: Before and After of Meander Bend Park. While this design is conceptual, the analysis revealed that GI has significant benefits to the community. Why not capitalize on unused space?

Pictured above is underused space at the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center. Below is the conceptual design that would create comfortable outdoor spaces for building occupants, provide beneficial uses for stormwater from building scuppers, and contribute to healthy habitat.

Ribbon Cutting - Grant Road Phase 2

Come celebrate the completion of Grant Road Phase 2 on Tuesday, October 30th at 9:30 am! Wheat Design Group was the landscape architect on this project and helped to beautify the corridor with native plant material, shade trees, green infrastructure/rainwater harvesting, and pedestrian amenities. We look forward to celebrating on Tuesday and watching this landscape enhance our community in the coming years.

WDG Project 'Broadway East' On Schedule

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recently announced that one of WDG’s roadway projects, Broadway East, is on schedule for construction. This is a section of Broadway Boulevard from Camino Seco to Houghton Road, and is part of the RTA’s 20-year plan. The project was scheduled for construction during FY 2017-2021. This is an important stretch of the roadway for the east side, so it’s great to hear that the City of Tucson will be able to benefit soon.

WDG worked on the landscape, irrigation, and erosion control design for Broadway East. The project will widen Broadway to four lanes and also incorporate improvements to drainage and new features such as street lighting, landscaped medians, bike lanes and sidewalks.

WDG created boards for an Open House that helped the community visualize the roadway design. Material palettes for plant and groundcover help to understand the finer details of the project, and also help our team picture how the materials will look as a whole.

Another component of our work on Broadway East was coordinating with the public artist Niki Glen who does many local Tucson projects. We always love this part of the creative process and seeing what the artist conceptualizes.

Above is Niki’s watercolor rendering of her idea for the art on Broadway East, and some pictures of the work in progress!

Proposition 407: Parks + Connections

At Wheat Design Group we promote multi-modal transport, healthy lifestyles, and community engagement. In keeping with these values, we could not be more excited about the City of Tucson’s Proposition 407, also known as the Parks + Connections Bond, appearing on the November 6th ballot. The bond is to include $225 million in General Obligation bonds to fund parks and connections improvements throughout the City of Tucson. The program would be implemented in three phases beginning in 2020, and ending in 2038.

We have proudly partnered with the City of Tucson to envision a variety of pedestrian and bicycle improvements throughout Tucson.



Here is a snapshot along the proposed El Paso Southwest Greenway, a Bike Boulevard connecting the University from Main Avenue to Kino Sports Complex. The project would be 6 miles long, connecting 26 parks, 10 schools, 2 libraries, downtown, and the Loop at the Kino Sports Complex.



This shared-use path is proposed to connect Kolb Road to Irvington road. Completion of this path would close the gap between the Aviation Bikeway, the Loop at Harrison Road, and the Houghton Road Shared-Use Path.



Walkability improvements along a 1.5 mile stretch of Roger Road from Oracle to Romero Road, would bring safety and connectivity to pedestrians at 2 schools, transit stops, restaurants, and stores.



The proposal for a bicycle boulevard along Greenway Drive, from Drexel Road to Cherry Avenue, would provide safe passage between 3 parks and 2 schools, with enhanced bicycle crossings at both Irvington Road and Campbell Avenue.



A protected bike lane is proposed along 6th Avenue for a length of .65 miles, connecting 2 parks and 5 schools between Speedway Boulevard and 7th Street.

Greenway Drive.gif


Check out the City of Tucson's Interactive Story Map for Prop 407:

For more information about Prop 407 visit:

What have we been up to?

We like to stay busy at WDG. Whether it's working on design, connecting with the community, or learning about new technology, we are constantly expanding our minds and desire to do meaningful work. This week was especially dynamic for us as we engaged with the community in several different capacities. 

POLLINATORS! We attended Tucson Water's Pollinator Party at Sweetwater Wetlands to commemorate National Pollinator Week. There was a dedication for the new pollinator garden, multiple speakers including representatives from the Mayor's office, and donated plants from Pima County's Native Plant Nursery and Civano. Pollinators are critical creatures that support wildlife and plant life, so we were excited to join in on the celebration.

 Lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds joined the party and there was even a Cormorant flyby!

Lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds joined the party and there was even a Cormorant flyby!

 No Pollinator Party is complete without Pollinator Cookies! Yum.

No Pollinator Party is complete without Pollinator Cookies! Yum.

COMPLETE STREETS! Because of our heavy involvement with transportation work, we are strong advocates for the complete streets movement. We participated in Living Streets Alliance's Complete Streets Stakeholder Dialogue to help develop a Complete Streets policy for Tucson. During the dialogue we were able to connect with like-minded colleagues, share stories about being a cyclist, pedestrian and driver, and contribute to a greater vision for Tucson as a future leader in complete streets. 

 Our staff member Nate coming up with brilliant ideas. Photo Credit: Living Streets Alliance

Our staff member Nate coming up with brilliant ideas. Photo Credit: Living Streets Alliance

 A collaborative process indeed. Photo Credit: Living Streets Alliance

A collaborative process indeed. Photo Credit: Living Streets Alliance

AUTOCASE! In collaboration with Pima County Regional Flood Control, WDG was able to participate in two green infrastructure pilot projects which were analyzed with Autocase. Autocase is a web-based tool that determines the triple bottom line cost benefit for green infrastructure. This includes financial, social, and environmental impacts for future time frames. The tool is a valuable method to inform decision-makers on the positive value of green infrastructure - our two pilot projects revealed significant value added to the community for a 50-year time frame. We were able to meet Simon Fowell from the Autocase team this week during his stop in Tucson!

 Screenshots from the web interface of Autocase, showing the final analysis report. Photo Credit: Autocase.

Screenshots from the web interface of Autocase, showing the final analysis report. Photo Credit: Autocase.


We're definitely feeling that summer desert heat here at WDG! The summer season is ramping up and now is a good time to take preventative measures to help your landscapes survive the intense heat. Good news is that the National Weather Service Tucson office and the Climate Prediction Center project that the upcoming monsoon season will be wetter than average, and we're only a few weeks away!

Here are some quick summer survival tips:


1. Rearrange

Rearrange plants and structures that can provide shade. Aside from the increase in heat intensity, the winter sun angle is quite different from the summer sun angle. Some plants, especially succulents, are easily burned by the summer sun. Take a good look at sun exposure in your landscape throughout the day and move pots to areas where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. If you can't move plants, consider shade cloth or a shade structure. (photo credit: Lowe's)


2. Reset

Reset your watering schedules. Yes we want to conserve as much as we can, but your plants will need a little extra help these next few weeks. If you have irrigation, take a moment to reevaluate your controller settings - the frequency of watering during the winter months may need to be increased. Don't forget about trees too! If you're watering pots, be careful with standing water in saucers, which can breed mosquitoes. Typically plants consume water about 10 minutes after watering, so dump out excess water after that time period (and definitely keep an eye on this during monsoons). Water during cooler times of the day (morning and after sun down) to avoid higher evaporation rates. Here are some tips from the City of TucsonAZ Department of Water Resources and UA's Cooperative Extension. (photo credit: Power of Plants)


3. Redesign

Redesign. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. How can you decrease your summer watering with better rainwater harvesting designs, especially during monsoons? How can you better group plants with similar watering needs? Are you planting the right types of plants for your microclimates? Do you have enough variety? You can make your summer landscape jobs easier on yourself if you design smartly and think about each plant's overall contribution to the "system." (photo credit: Xtremehorticulture of the Desert)

Stay Cool!

Habitat for Humanity Women Build Week 2018

A few of our staff from WDG recently participated in Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Week 2018. It was a blast! Women Build Week is a national event that happens every year and encourages women to come together to help build affordable homes for local families.



Not only did we get to learn some new skills, but more importantly we were able to help out a family in need of a home. It was great to actually meet the family who will eventually own the house we worked on. We spent the morning installing drywall in of the daughters' bedrooms. It was a special moment when she walked in and was thrilled to see the progress!

 Credit: Habitat for Humanity

Credit: Habitat for Humanity

 Learning construction skills!

Learning construction skills!

Giving back to our community is something we really value at WDG. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning with like-minded individuals helping to make Tucson a better place to live. It was also a fun way to bond with each other as a team. We look forward to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations in the near future! More pictures from Tucson's Women Build week can be found here.


ASLA Nursery Tour: A Plant-astic Time Beyond Be-Leaf

What do you get when you combine 30 Landscape Architects, a party bus, 5 nurseries, 1 compost facility, plant trivia, and awesome prizes? A really awesome nursery tour of course!

And what a blast it was! ASLA Southern Section recently went on a tour of nurseries in the Tucson metro region, and it was quite a success. WDG helped organize and sponsor the event. Over 30 local professionals joined in on the fun, and we stopped at 5 nurseries and 1 composting facility. Our very own Nate Ritchie and his colleague even put together plant trivia for the bus ride, so we all left with some unique new knowledge of plants. Our tour included: Desert Trees, Tank's Green Stuff, Green Things, Mesquite Valley Growers, Desert Survivors, and the Pima County Native Plant Nursery.

All aboard! Here's the group at the start of the day on the way to our first stop at Desert Trees.

 Nursery managers and propagators were all very excited to share their knowledge on plant growing processes behind the scenes. One common theme: patience is key.

Nursery managers and propagators were all very excited to share their knowledge on plant growing processes behind the scenes. One common theme: patience is key.

Check out the photos above for some shots of the nurseries we visited and the awesome prizes that people won (yum compost) from plant trivia.

Thank you to all of those who helped make this nursery tour happen, including the organizing committee and all of the sponsors. We look forward to another one!

WDG Designer Nate Ritchie wins EPA 2017 Campus RainWorks Challenge with student group!

Wheat Design Group is happy to announce that our designer, Nate Ritchie, and a group of his fellow landscape architecture students (Fei Yu, Yuheng Zhang, and Dan Zedick) won Honorable Mention in the 2017 EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge, Master Plan Category! There were 87 projects submitted for this award. Well done!

The team also won an AZASLA student collaborative Honor Award for the project this year. 

Check out more about Nate's team and their project, A River Runs Through It, at the links below.

Congrats Nate!


February Plants of the Month - Wildflowers!

The rain finally came. After a very warm and dry winter, we finally have some significant rainfall and moisture. And along with spring rain comes wildflowers!


Wildflowers provide a pop of color to your yard while also providing nectar for pollinators. Most wildflowers will do well with only rainfall, but for best performance they should be watered during extended droughts, like the one we had this winter.

Wildflowers are very easy to add to your own yard. There are some nurseries that sell small wildflower plants, but the best way to create a wildflower garden is to start from seed. Seeds need to be planted a few months in advance. While it's a little too late to plant spring wildflower seeds, now is a great time to prepare your yard for monsoon wildflowers. Wildflowers generally prefer full sun. Most will die off or drop leaves during the hottest part of the year. Fortunately most of these will reseed and return to your yard anually.

Here are four quintessential Sonoran Desert Wildflowers:

 Parry's Penstemon

Parry's Penstemon

 Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold

 Mexican Gold Poppy

Mexican Gold Poppy

 Desert Globe Mallow

Desert Globe Mallow

Native Seed Search is a great place to purchase these and many more wildflowers. We recommend buying a variety pack of seeds to get a variety of flowers.

 Brittlebush is another great wildflower

Brittlebush is another great wildflower

Early Spring Planting at the Wheat Design Group Office

With temperatures in the mid 80's, it certainly doesn't feel like winter anymore. We have decided to do a spring cleaning of the planters outside our office. Thanks to a donation from Jean at Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, you can now see some beautiful new plants as you enter our office.

Dwarf Elephant Food

Old Mexico Prickly Pear

We have added:

Hesperaloe nocturna - Night-blooming Hesperaloe

Opuntia gomei 'Old Mexico' - Old Mexico Prickly Pear

Portulacaria afra minima - Dwarf Elephant Food

Acalypha monostachya Raspberry Fuzzies - Rasberry Fuzzies

The pots were looking pretty sad before...

The midway point. We replaced all of the soil.


Our planters are in a north facing exposure, which can be tricky for plants. These will get plenty of shade so stay tuned for a future post that will evaluate how they are doing in their shady homes.

January Plant of the Month: Agaves

We often find our landscapes looking a bit sad this time of year due to lower precipitation and colder temperatures. This year is especially rough on our plants because of the La Nina climate pattern, which forecasts drier than normal conditions here in the Southwest.

But have no fear!

There are many great plants that look wonderful year-round, even when conditions get a little tough. Some of our favorites are those of the agave species, which consistently provide interesting sculptural structure to our landscapes. 



Weber's Agave (Agave weberi) is one of the larger and faster growing agaves that is often seen around town. It has gray-green leaves and can reach a size of 5' tall by 5' wide. Weber's agave is very easy to take care of as it loves heat and is drought-tolerant. Pairs nicely with aloe and red yucca.



Blue Glow Agave (Agave 'Blue Glow')  is a more medium-sized agave that has stunning yellow and red-edged leaf margins. The coloration on the leaf margins actually makes this plant "glow" in the sunlight. One of the nice aspects of the Blue Glow Agave is that it does not produce pups, so it is convenient for tight spaces or containers.



The Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) is a beautiful accent agave that has a tight rosette with a delicate white lining along its leaves - its structure resembles that of an artichoke. This is a slower growing agave, and will stay small at 12" tall by 18" wide. Because of its small size, plant the Queen Victoria Agave in areas that are more visible, and in groupings of three or more. Try it in a container!  



We're lucky to have one of the leading experts on agaves right here in our Tucson community, Greg Starr, who is the owner of Starr Nursery. Follow Greg's blog for more information on the wild world of agaves. 

Smarter Streets & Safer People

Wheat Design Group is excited about all of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Tucson recently. Cyclovia and El Tour de Tucson both happened in the last couple of months, bringing out thousands of riders and enthusiasts. The World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Violence also happened a few weeks ago, and local organization Living Streets Alliance and their partners held a memorable vigil for the lives lost in Tucson due to traffic violence.

A large part of our work here at WDG is transportation, and we are always looking to improve the ways pedestrians and cyclists safely use transportation routes. We are happy to see organizations in Tucson also on board with this vision.

An exciting new bicycle program also just came to Tucson, and to our office's neighborhood in Sam Hughes: TUGO Bike Share!

Municipalities across the world have embraced bicycle share programs, and Tucson is now part of that group of cities that support alternative transportation. TUGO currently has 36 stations across Tucson and offers daily, monthly, and annual passes. We're thrilled to have a station at our office - what a great way to take a lunch break, commute to a meeting, or get to and from work.

Our staff member Alex attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for TUGO and brought the inaugural bike to our office's nearest station at 6th St and Tucson Blvd (see photos above from the launch - volunteers were the first ones to ride the bikes to various stations).

Visit to learn more about the program. Don't forget your helmet!