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A&M architecture group shows designs for new Phoenix Center


MARBLE FALLS — Sarah Garrett and the board and staff of the Phoenix Center of Marble Falls have a big challenge ahead of them. How to decide among eight designs for a proposed new multimillion-dollar facility.

And it’s not just one building. The designs include the main campus as well as a equine therapy facility, a camp, and various other features.

“Yeah, at this point, we really need to discern (if) we really like this one or do we use this one as an inspiration for something else,” said Garrett, founder and executive director of the Phoenix Center. “But it’s a good issue to have.”

On Dec. 5, eight teams consisting of 50 students and faculty associated with the Texas A&M University College of Architecture presented their design ideas to Phoenix Center staff and the public at Lake Shores Church in Marble Falls. The design teams included A&M faculty, architecture students, and landscape-architecture students.

The goal, Garrett explained, was to provide Phoenix Center staff and board members with options for a new facility. In October 2015, the Phoenix Center kicked off a five-year capital campaign to raise money to purchase land and build a new center, which will include a trauma center, a year-round equine therapy facility, and camp facilities.

Associated with such a project are the costs of design and architecture. A $25,000 grant through the Texas A&M University College of High Impact Learning Vertical Interdisciplinary Studio along with the support of Jerry Strickland of the Linda and Jerry Strickland Family Foundation helped usher in the collaboration between the university and the Phoenix Center. In September, about 60 A&M students and faculty members met with the center’s staff and board in Marble Falls to go over the program’s current and future needs.

Then, they headed back to the university to begin the process of coming up with design ideas.

Though Garrett knew the A&M group would come up with great ideas, she was taken aback by what she saw and heard during the recent presentation.

“They went into such incredible detail, not just of the main facility itself but every piece and even each room,” Garrett said. “Systematically, they went through everything and looked at what our long-term needs would be.”

It was more than just building some rooms to the students, Garrett explained, it was about digging deep into how each room would be utilized and how best to design and build the new facilities so they fully benefit the families the Phoenix Center serves.

And that’s not a simple task, considering the number of services the center offers — some of them being the most innovative in the world.

The Phoenix Center provides high-quality mental health care for children who have endured trauma as well as a number of parenting support programs. To do that, the highly trained Phoenix Center staff members use a number of research-based and trauma-informed services, including play therapy, equine therapy, canine therapy, yoga, and more.

Since opening its doors at its current location at 119 Ave. G in Marble Falls, the Phoenix Center has seen a steady, sometimes large, growth for its services.

Garrett, the staff, and the board began envisioning a larger facility and, with the capital campaign, have begun moving steadily in that direction.

The recent design presentation is a step.

“If we didn’t have this collaboration with Texas A&M, we would have had to try and find an architect — and I would have looked — to donate these services,” Garrett said. “That would have probably taken more time.”

Along with getting into the design phase sooner, the collaboration brought a wealth of ideas.

“Having all these other ideas and perspectives … it just brings so much more to the designs and process,” Garrett added. “It’s just been amazing. We’re so excited about the designs and the Phoenix Center’s future.”

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