Wrangling Growth As An Exurb Expands

<p>The exurban town of Buckeye, Arizona, is expected over the next two decades to grow from a population of 25,000 to more than 400,000. Planners are trying to do what they can to control the flood.</p>
July 8, 2008, 8am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Whereas Interstate 10 once threatened to suck the life out of Buckeye, it has recently proved to be one of the keys to the town's incredible reawakening-as a beeline toward more affordable housing beyond Phoenix's outer ring. Earlier this decade, developers began laying claim to huge pieces of land around Buckeye for new subdivisions and shopping centers. Across much of the Phoenix area, this influx has already brought miles of neighborhoods where houses sit rather far from shops, services, or anything fun, so it's hard to walk from here to there."

"Buckeye-given the fast pace of its development-might be the last place you would expect to find anything smarter. But the town's planners and politicians are trying to get ahead of the vacuum that a developer's nature abhors, and design, of all things, a sustainable suburb. Over the past few years, they have been seriously overworked."

"Over the past several years, the town of Buckeye has annexed 370 square miles of this land into its corporate limits, and its total planning area, which it intends to annex eventually, measures 598 square miles, which is larger than Phoenix. From its northernmost corporate limit to its southernmost, Buckeye runs about 45 miles long. From east to west, it is 24 miles wide."

"Right now, across much of this terrain, it doesn't look as if much is going on, particularly along the Sun Valley Parkway, a four-lane divided road that stretches north from Interstate 10 into the desert before turning east back to Surprise. It has been called the Road to Nowhere. Off the interstate, a sign on the parkway cautions that there are no services for the next 35 miles."

"'You're still driving through the heart of Buckeye,' said Phil Marcotte, the chief building official for the town, who was doing the actual driving. Marcotte, who started work for the town in 1994, when it had about 5,600 people, offered to show me around the vast tracts of Buckeye where developers are laying seed for 22 approved master planned communities that are expected, by 2030, to hold more than 400,000 people."

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Published on Sunday, June 1, 2008 in Architect Magazine
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