Metro Phoenix continues to reshape itself as one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
New development eats up desert scrub and farm fields and remakes older areas.
The growth brings welcomed new jobs and amenities, and at times consternation over changing landscapes and strains to water and housing supplies.
— Carrie Watters
One thing is a given: More people are moving to metro Phoenix.
More than 1,000 people, on average, moved to Phoenix every month between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Buckeye averaged more than 650 new residents per month.
On a percentage basis, Queen Creek, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Maricopa and Goodyear were among the nation’s 15 fastest growing cities with at least 50,000 people in the latest estimates.
Over the last decade, Phoenix grew at a faster rate than any other major city. Among all U.S. cities with populations over 50,000, Buckeye tops the list with an 80% growth rate from 2010 to 2020.
Buckeye has hung tight to some of its small-town, Western roots, but the latest estimates show the city southwest of Phoenix now exceeds 100,000 residents.
More people bring more shopping options.
Buckeye lands outdoor shopping mall. Verrado Marketplace is planned just off Interstate 10, at the entrance to the Verrado master-planned community. The development with up to 60 stores and restaurants was expected to open in mid-2024. An Aldi grocery store opened in Buckeye earlier this year as part of the popular discount grocer’s push into the Arizona market.
Village at Prasada going up in Surprise. Twenty minutes or so north, off Loop 303 in Surprise, the open-air shopping mall was expected to begin opening later this year. The 700,000-square-foot Village at Prasada will include a family entertainment venue with a movie theater, bowling alley and arcade, restaurants and shopping. Stores opening there, from Hobby Lobby to T.J. Maxx & HomeGoods, continue to tick items off residents’ commercial wish list.
Avondale’s BLVD grows. Just south of Interstate 10, apartments are going up, along with new eateries and options, including an Aveda Institute. The city, long known for farming and affordability, is nearing 90,000 residents and aims to create a more urban, walkable community at the BLVD, anchored by the Randall McDaniel’s Sports Complex. See what else is opening there.
Verde at Cooley Station opening in Gilbert. The development at the southwest corner of Recker and Williams Field roads will include apartments, office space, restaurants, bars and retail shops. Hash Kitchen, West Alley BBQ and Smokehouse are among the restaurants opening there this year. Here’s what to look for at Cooley Station, as well as in Gilbert’s popular Agritopia development and elsewhere.
Gilbert looks to bring more people to its downtown. Gilbert leaders rezoned town-owned land in its popular downtown for what they view as an anchor to its north end. Heritage North is envisioned with apartments, a hotel and retail shops.
Disneyland for sports enthusiasts. The massive 320-acre Bell Bank Park opened this year in east Mesa with facilities for indoor and outdoor games, zip lines, an obstacle course and esports competition. The by-the-numbers look at its amenities is staggering, from 35 fields for soccer, lacrosse and football to 41 pickleball courts. See the full rundown here.
Park University grows in Gilbert. Town officials faced a rocky start to opening its university building, but then it landed Park University in 2018. The university has grown to some 500 students at its downtown Gilbert campus and held its first graduation ceremony in April.
Abrazo plans Buckeye’s first hospital. The city’s first hospital is planned near I-10 and Verrado Way, the same area where the Verrado Marketplace outdoor mall was announced. The initial phase of development for the Abrazo Health medical campus was expected to break ground this year.
Peoria still trying to land its first hospital. In the northwest Valley, Peoria continues to grow its medical office space, but a full-service hospital has proven more elusive.
Scottsdale beautification underway. Scottsdale is renovating its Civic Center Mall as the Super Bowl returns to Arizona in 2023. The updates, both aesthetics and infrastructure, should position the city to host outdoor events related to the NFL championship. But Scottsdale, like many cities, has seen the project’s cost rise with inflation. Here’s the latest figure on what the renovations will cost the city.
Glendale project going up 8 stories. Just south of State Farm Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played, a resort touted as the state’s largest is under construction. While the project nearly doubled its room count from 630 to more than 1,200 rooms, it is no longer expected to open before the big game. Here are the details on VAI Resort, previously dubbed Crystal Lagoons.
Redevelopment replaces Paradise Valley Mall. The 43-year-old mall in northeast Phoenix was razed last year and the first phase of redevelopment, including luxury apartments, a Whole Foods Market and a Harkins dine-in luxury theater, is underway. The developer unveiled the project’s name and a simple gray logo earlier this year.
Fiesta Mall still waits. A mall in Mesa that opened in the same year as Paradise Valley Mall, 1979, still awaits redevelopment. Plans for what to do with the vacant mall have been hampered by multiple ownership groups. That could be changing.
Phoenix Public Market building may disappear. The single-story brick building that housed Phoenix Public Market Café, a downtown Phoenix staple that shuttered in 2020, may be razed in favor of a high rise. A preservation group says losing the 76-year-old building would chip away at the area’s character. City staffers were communicating with the developer on his redevelopment proposal, although the decision is ultimately his.
Plans for Mesa’s Buckhorn Baths. The history of Buckhorn Baths is intertwined with Mesa’s past, representative of the roadside motels that once dotted the area. It opened in 1939 and attracted spring training ballplayers to its warm mineral springs before closing more than two decades ago. A new owner envisions apartments near the old motel and perhaps some day renovating the monument to Mesa’s yesteryear.
Languishing site in Mesa may see development. Mesa spent millions to buy 27 acres of land starting in the mid-1980s — some of the property acquired through eminent domain that forced out residents — but grand plans for redevelopment never materialized on the dirt lot near University and Mesa drives. Mesa officials think they now have a plan to spur growth. Here’s what city officials and a private developer’s early talks envision.
Scottsdale’s Lucky Plaza to become Greenbelt 88. A four-story apartment complex and a retail center will replace Lucky Plaza near Scottsdale’s Indian Bend Wash. The Greenbelt 88 is less dense, less tall and with less retail space than the developer initially proposed, but gained approval after two years of negotiations.
Preservation amid redevelopment? Tempe’s music and art scene grew in the 1960s-era Danelle Plaza, but developers have acquired property there with an eye toward redevelopment. The city is among the property owners and continues talks on how to revitalize the old plaza.
Restoring historic Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe. The mill has been a Tempe fixture along the Salt River since 1918, and the grain elevators and silos were built in 1951. Developers envision restaurants and shops in ground floor suites and offices on the upper floors, including the 5-story mill that stands at Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway. The Arizona Republic obtained a copy of the bid that Venue Projects and Sunbelt Holdings submitted to the city.
Remember the massive Trotter Park off I-10 in Goodyear? Residents and leaders hoped for an entertainment destination where the iconic Phoenix Trotting Park once stood, but are more likely to see light industrial at the site off of I-10. Plans include the possibility of retail and office buildings, but the area slated for commerce and light industrial takes up more than half of the site.
Longtime family farm will move for development. One of Arizona’s early farm families eventually will pull up stakes along the Glendale-Peoria border. The Rovey family plans to sell their land to developers for Legacy Point. Here’s a look at the pioneering family’s history and the residential, industrial and commercial development planned.
Development along Tempe Town Lake. A developer is proposing to transform a long vacant waterfront property at Tempe Town Lake into a $1.8 billion “resort-inspired” community with apartments, shopping and dining and a pier that juts out into the water. The project is dubbed South Pier at Tempe Town Lake.
From Glendale to Tempe: Tempe officials continue to review the Arizona Coyotes’ proposal to build a $1.7 billion entertainment district and hockey arena just west of Tempe Town Lake. The Tempe City Council got its first look at the proposal in a closed-door session in April. Meanwhile, the NHL team played ended its final game at Glendale’s Gila River Arena on April 29. Glendale and the Coyotes needed each other two decades ago. Both bet they no longer do.
Repurposing buildings into apartments. Mesa leaders OK’d converting mostly vacant medical offices near Country Club Drive and Brown Road into apartments. In nearby Tempe, city leaders plan to transform a shopping center along Apache Boulevard into affordable housing. Phoenix also has explored replacing vacant storefronts with housing as the limited housing supply has driven up rents and home prices.
Scottsdale debates apartments as rents climb. Scottsdale is among the priciest areas in the country to rent an apartment, but the push for apartments isn’t always well received. Mayor David Ortega has said the city doesn’t have the infrastructure to house many more people. But housing advocates say the pushback against apartments creates a long-term threat to affordable housing. The Republic looked back at apartment development in Scottsdale over the past decade.
Gilbert council OKs apartments despite concerns. Gilbert’s Town Council rezoned land that could pave the way for nearly 300 apartments, despite town staffers concerns that the commercial area was not ideal for residential development. The move comes as Gilbert ranked as one of the priciest areas in the country for apartment rentals.
Apartments near Queen Creek’s popular farm attraction. Schnepf Farms, the family-owned farm and entertainment venue in Queen Creek, sold 13 of its nearly 300 acres of land to be turned into high-end rentals. The rentals are planned across the street from the core of Schnepf Farms.
Mesa offers tax break for apartments. Mesa leaders agreed to waive $2.3 million in property taxes over eight years for an apartment complex with 245 “market rate” apartments and “resort-style amenities” north of Dobson Road and Main Street on a piece of land that has sat empty for decades. The site once was the Tri-City Mall’s parking lot.
Phoenix sued over tax break for downtown apartments. The Goldwater Institute is representing two people suing Phoenix over a property tax break given to the developer of Skye on 6th, an apartment complex under construction in downtown’s Roosevelt Row district. The suit claims the subsidy is worth about $7 million and violates the state Constitution’s gift clause.
Peoria OKs controversial apartment proposal. Residents in north Peoria have long sought unique restaurants and amenities for the fast-growing area with high-end housing, but a proposal that includes a 336-unit apartment complex packed the council chambers. Some raised concerns about “apartments in our backyard,” while others welcomed the option. The City Council OK’d the 45.5-acre project dubbed The Trailhead.
Peoria rejects another apartment proposal. The Peoria City Council rejected a plan to bring apartments to the former site of an old Smitty’s grocery store along Grand Avenue. Mayor Cathy Carlat says she would rather the property sit vacant than settle for a proposal that doesn’t line up with her vision for the city. Here’s what the council wants to see there.
Glendale, Tempe plan affordable apartments as rents soar. Gorman & Company plans to use COVID-19 related federal funds and a new Arizona low-income housing tax credit to build a 368-unit affordable apartment complex in Glendale. And in Tempe, the city has selected nonprofit Copa Health to develop affordable housing on city-owned land. The moves come as rent hikes in metro Phoenix outpace the rest of the nation.
A community’s search for water: Residents in Rio Verde Foothills, an unincorporated part of Maricopa County, are searching for water as Scottsdale will no longer allow water haulers to rely on the city’s supply. Residents could create their own water taxing district, with county approval, or seek out a private water provider, but there are no easy answers with the ongoing drought that is limiting Colorado River water.
Where will water come from for massive Douglas Ranch community proposed in Buckeye? Buckeye OK’d the 36,000-acre project that would rely on groundwater, a resource state water experts say has been dangerously depleted. But before large-scale construction can get underway, the developer must prove to the state that it has enough water to serve future residents. So far, the developer has only successfully proven it has enough water for 3,000 acres or less than 10% of the planned community.
Further west, 5,000-resident community in early planning stage. Many residents moved to Tonopah to get away from city life, but a 1,100-acre master-planned community called Verma Vistas III could quadruple the number of houses in the small, western outpost of Maricopa County. Residents are generally taking a laid-back approach to the proposal, which is in the early stages of planning, including determining where its water would come from.
Equally ambitious southeast Valley project still needs water. Development is underway on an enormous stretch of desert southeast of Phoenix called Superstition Vistas. Builders have a plan to pipe water to the development’s first homes, but a long-term water solution has yet to be found if the vacant land is to one day grow into a massive community of up to 900,000 people. While development has begun, questions about water supplies for expansion loom.
Supplier spinoff. The massive semiconductor factory under construction off Loop 303 in north Phoenix is attracting other development. Sunlit Chemical, a Taiwan chemical company, broke ground on its first U.S. factory a few miles from where Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is under construction. The plant will supply the Valley’s growing chipmaking industry.
Another supplier expands in Mesa. Fujifilm Holdings Corp. completed an $88 million expansion of its Mesa factory to supply chemicals and advanced materials for the semiconductor industry in Arizona and beyond. Fujifilm Electronic Materials employs about 400 people at the complex east of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The expansion was expected to add 120 jobs over the next two years.
Easing commute times with growing job base. At more than 500,000 residents, Mesa is slightly larger than Atlanta. But in the Valley, it falls within the gravitational pull of Phoenix. Three in four working Mesa residents commute outside the city for work, but a growing employment corridor in southeast Mesa could change that.
Facebook among companies headed to Mesa. Meta Platforms, parent of Facebook, is investing more than $1 billion to build data centers in Mesa. The campus with five buildings eventually will employ an estimated 200 people.
Satellite-manufacturing plant in Gilbert expands. Northrop Grumman recently expanded its satellite factory in Gilbert. Earth-observation satellites for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the items produced there. Some 850 people work at the factory near McQueen and Elliot roads and hundreds more jobs are expected.
Aircraft makers land in Mesa and Chandler. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., which makes business jets, is planning a $70 million service center at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. In nearby Chandler, Cirrus Aircraft, a maker of personal planes, opened an innovation center focused on avionics, electrical and software engineering for aircraft. Arizona has ranked as the seventh most attractive state to manufacture aerospace products.
Amazon expands Tempe tech center. Amazon is expanding its technology center near Arizona State University in Tempe. The expansion was expected to create 550 jobs supporting Amazon’s consumer retail, software development engineers, senior solution architects, project managers and business analysts. Amazon already is Arizona’s third-largest private-sector employer.
Battery supplier for Arizona’s electric vehicle industry planned in QC. A $1.4 billion battery plant that could become Queen Creek’s largest employer recently got the go-ahead from town leaders. LG Energy Solution, a subsidiary of South Korea-based electronics giant LG, is behind the plant that would manufacture batteries primarily for local electric vehicle manufacturers. The development agreement shows the battery plant is supposed to create 2,800 jobs.
Solar industry manufacturer opening in Goodyear. European solar industry manufacturer, Meyer Burger, will open its first U.S. facility in Goodyear by the end of the year. The plant was expected to start with about 250 jobs and could double that at full capacity.
Distribution centers continue to open in West Valley. Distribution centers continue to open in the West Valley, which offers undeveloped land near freeways. Among the latest are: Abercrombie and Fitch in Goodyear, Funko in Buckeye and Williams-Sonoma in Glendale.
Nestlé building $675M manufacturing plant in Glendale. The food and beverage maker plans to make coffee creamers at the plant. The facility is estimated to bring 350 jobs including engineers and manufacturing personnel in two years.
West Glendale industrial boom. Lincoln Property Company’s recently purchased 140 acres adjacent to Luke Air Force Base, near Litchfield Road and Northern Avenue, in Glendale. The company plans a $515 million industrial development. The area has seen an influx of industrial developments as residential projects are limited by the base.