Courtesy Shea Homes
Ask residents here what they love most about living in Arizona, and you’ll find as many answers as stars in the big, open desert sky. For some, it’s the Sonoran Desert, with its wild, open and beautiful vistas. For others, it’s the lakes and golf courses that offer a delicious escape from the work-a-day world. Others claim that the real reason to live here is the culture –
For thousands of years, people who have visited Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun have decided to stay and make it their home. The Hohokam who first lived here developed the Valley’s first canal system, which allowed the farming of beans, corn, squash and cotton. They also built a community that suited their needs: single family homes, apartment buildings, an outdoor neighborhood recreation center, and a ceremonial spot for the celebration of special events. After a residency that lasted for more than 1,700 years, the Hohokam mysteriously left, leaving the area for others to discover and enjoy.
Just as the Hohokam adapted the area to suit their needs, so did the later inhabitants of the area. Phoenix’s modern history actually begins in 1868, when Jack Swilling organized the building of a canal and was able to divert enough water to raise a few crops. From there, Phoenix quickly developed into a town. Cotton, cattle, citrus and copper, known locally as the “Four Cs” were the cornerstones of its early twentieth-century economy.
Before World War II, Phoenix had been a sleepy little southwestern town best known for having a climate that offered relief to asthmatics. In 1940, the city’s population was a mere 65,000 and the largest of the surrounding towns was Mesa, with 7,000 people.
With the advent of WWII and the ensuing military buildup, defense contractors searching for land, water and a willing work force, found everything they wanted in fledgling Phoenix. The defense contractors moved in, bringing educated employees and a wealth of new jobs. Farmland and desert scrub were cleared to build massive plants that flew the banners of Goodyear Aircraft Corp., AiResearch, Motorola, Sperry Rand and General Electric, some of which are still among the city’s largest employers today.
During the post-war years, word began to spread that, contrary to Saturday matinee Westerns, Phoenix was a civilized city with abundant sunshine and recreational pleasures to spare. Phoenix began to see another boom – this time fueled not by cattle or the mining industry, but by lifestyle and economic opportunities.
New residents come to start a new job, go to school or make a fresh start continue to stream into the area – only now they drive SUVs and minivans instead of the covered wagons popular in the late 1800’s. Phoenix has exploded to become the nation’s sixth most populous city with about 1.5 million residents. Unlike other cities that have grown slowly over time, Phoenix catapulted to this position in relatively short order. From a modest 17 square miles and population of 100,000 in 1950, Phoenix has grown to encompass more than 430 square miles and the city’s population has grown exponentially.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Phoenix metro area is home to four of the fastest-growing suburbs: Buckeye with a growth rate of 23 percent, Surprise with a growth rate of 22 percent, Goodyear with a growth rate of 13 percent and Avondale with a growth rate of 8 percent, annually.
A Great Place for a New Beginning
Many new to Phoenix are pleasantly surprised to find this city of the American Southwest is home to an international community, with the different languages heard on the street reflective of modern-day Phoenix. Spanish is often heard here, indicative of a city with a Hispanic population that comprises 34% of the city’s population, while the mix of languages commonly heard around Arizona State University in Tempe attests to the college’s international influence on the area. The Phoenix calendar is filled with festivals and events that reflect residents’ Hispanic, African-American, Oriental, Native American and Anglo cultures. Hispanic and Native American heritage is especially influential and is expressed throughout the region.
Phoenix is also a critical location for the semi-conductor industry, and is the third largest semi-conductor city in the nation and seals the international deal by bringing in talent from all over the world to keep on top of cutting edge technologies. Many high-tech manufacturers, including Bull Worldwide Information Systems, are based in northwest Phoenix, while Honeywell is located near Sky Harbor International Airport and in south Phoenix and Sitix of Phoenix can be found in Paradise Valley to the northeast. The result is a friendly and eclectic mix of cultures that complement and add to an already thriving business scene.
Leading private sector employers include Motorola Inc., US Airways, Chase Bank, Banner Health systems, American Express travel related services, Avnet, Dial Corporation, Apollo Group and Wells Fargo. Among the many companies with corporate or regional headquarters in the Valley are Intel Corp, U-Haul International, Phelps Dodge Corp., MicroAge Inc., Allied Signal and Boeing.
In addition, the Valley has a reputation as a popular retirement destination and the retirement community scene here continues to grow. Arizona has about one million residents 55 years old and older, with a combined economic impact of about $16.8 billion.
Sunny Days Ahead
The three primary reasons people move to the Valley of the Sun are wages, weekends, and the warm weather. The sun does more than just generate a great tan: it attracts industries searching for a warm, dry climate that won’t interfere with their distribution networks, telecommunications systems or administrative operations. Nine months out of the year, Valley residents enjoy pleasant, spring-like temperatures. Summer brings the heat with temperatures often breaking 100 degrees during July and August, with little humidity until the monsoon season begins in late August. The returning thunderstorms replenish the water table and help bring back more moderate temperatures.
While the city of Phoenix is situated in the desert, Arizona is far from being a dry, desolate land. Vast canal works, including the Central Arizona Project canal that brings water from the Colorado River located 200 miles away makes the desert bloom. Also, the reserves of runoff water provided by rain and snow in the northern mountain range of Arizona are accessible thanks to Roosevelt Dam just northeast of the Valley. As a result of the efficiency of the city’s waterworks, landscaping designs for parks, golf courses, homes and boulevards often include palm, olive, pine and citrus trees. The sweet scent of orange blossoms fills the air in March and April. Roses, poppies and hundreds of other flowers bloom almost all year.
In addition to being economically, ethnically and culturally diverse, Phoenix’s 300-plus days of sunshine a year make it a perfect match for an active, on-the-go lifestyle. Those who call Phoenix home are often found out of doors, enjoying the city’s natural beauty, including the area’s parkland, outdoor exercise and recreation facilities, more than 1,000 tennis courts and more than 150 golf courses, as well as municipal parks, bicycling routes, running paths, and equestrian trails. Dozens of hiking clubs lead the way through the mountain ranges that surround the city, while softball, baseball and soccer leagues for all ages and skill levels abound.
Phoenix is home to the largest municipal park in the world, the 16,500-acre South Mountain Park, serves as the city’s southern border. A Mecca for hiking, biking and horseback riding, South Mountain Park is the largest link in the chain of desert mountain parks, known as the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, that encircle the city. After-work hikes to the top of Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain are a popular pastime, while another 1,700 acres of traditional city parks, some with golf courses, serve as oases of green throughout the city.
Trailered boats are a common sight as they zip along the Valley’s thoroughfares on their way to one of the five lakes that are just within a short drive from metropolitan Phoenix. Water-skiing, power boating, sailing and fishing are popular water sports, while raft trips down the alternately tranquil and turbulent Verde and Salt rivers are also popular.
New residents aren’t the only ones who flock to Phoenix. Tourism is one of the metropolitan area’s leading businesses, and employs about 250,000 people year-round to support this thriving industry. Those who live here find the relationship with tourism is a profitable one both financially and personally – as a result, restaurants, retail centers and recreational outlets targeted to tourists are available to them all year. Large-scale conventions and trade shows are held in the Phoenix Civic Plaza. The convention and meeting industry is an important one, injecting more than $5 billion into the area economy.
The ease of getting to and from the Valley boosts its status as a popular vacation and convention destination. Once visitors find they have arrived there are approximately 50,000 motel and hotel rooms available in properties ranging from five-star resorts in Scottsdale to genteel bed and breakfast inns to sleek business hotels in downtown Phoenix. The airport system includes Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is the seventh busiest in the country for passengers and the eighth busiest in the world for takeoffs and landings. Nearby Deer Valley and Goodyear airports are also busy, and contribute to the more than 300,000 jobs that are provided by the Phoenix airport system.
Communities in the Area
Just as Phoenix is the hub of commercial activity in the Southwest, it has also become the center around which more than twenty communities have grown in an area collectively known as the “Valley of the Sun.” Some of the Valley communities are well known beyond the Arizona state line: Scottsdale is a popular resort destination, Tempe is the home of Arizona State University, Paradise Valley is a town as idyllic as its name, and Sun City is home to active retirees.
Two communities with large populations that deserve a second look are Mesa and Glendale, the state’s third and fourth largest cities after Phoenix and Tucson. Just to the southeast, Chandler and Gilbert are becoming well-known magnets for both young families and high-tech manufacturing firms.
Located above the Valley to the northeast in the McDowell Mountains, and only fifteen minutes from the nearest city is Fountain Hills, prized by its residents for its solitude. The sister communities of Cave Creek and Carefree to the north comprise another secluded area, with rustic ranch spreads and million-dollar adobe homes.
The West Valley communities of Peoria, Avondale, Tolleson and Litchfield Park offer family-oriented lifestyles and affordable housing. The outlying farming communities of Goodyear, Buckeye and Surprise are rapidly mirroring the expansion of the closer-in West Valley communities.
To meet the strong demand for new homes in Phoenix and the Central Arizona area, homebuilders have had to keep up with demand. Shea Homes is a leading Arizona builder and winner of numerous local and national awards, including the Professional Builder of the Year and America’s Best Builder awards. Shea Homes was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among New Home Builders in Phoenix.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Shea Homes has designed homes in more than 20 neighborhoods throughout the region, from Chandler and Maricopa to Gilbert and Peoria. Neighborhoods featuring homes built by Shea Homes include the exceptionally desirable master-planned communities of Totosa and Rancho Mirage in Maricopa, Old Stone Ranch and Avalon in Chandler, Seville Golf & Country Club in Gilbert, Canyon Trails in Goodyear and Vistancia in Peoria. Choices range from attainably priced homes for first-time buyers to grand-scale residences of incomparable spaciousness and luxury, representing the full spectrum of new homes in Phoenix and the surrounding area.
“Many of the potential buyers that visit our communities ask about our model homes because they include so many options and added features, both inside and out,” says Ken Peterson, the Arizona Division Vice President of Shea Homes Sales and Marketing. “We are very happy to be able to offer these homes for immediate sale. They are an incredible value, and are located in some of our most popular, amenity rich neighborhoods, many nearing close-out, which makes these homes one of the last opportunities to live in these communities.”
Finding That Dream Home
With the constant influx of newcomers to Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun come new ideas and new ambitions, creating a vibrant atmosphere that frees people to pursue their vision of the American Dream. Finding a place to live is one of the most exciting experiences a newcomer to the Phoenix area can have. With the help of a trained real estate professional, those new to the area can be assured of making an informed decision about one of the most important investments ever made in their lives – the purchase of a home.
Realtors can be found through recommendations from friends, co-workers, family, or by contacting the local board of realtors to find a real estate professional in the area. Using a realtor’s expertise and knowledge to become educated about the Phoenix area and the amenities offered in the different neighborhoods will go a long way toward making the house-hunting experience an enjoyable one.