20 July 2006

Anthem is the biggest mistake ever perpetrated on the American cityscape

The Angry Geographer tackles Anthem, Arizona in a series on "Band-Aid Urbanism"
Anthem is far away from just about everything. The community's entrance is almost 35 miles from downtown Phoenix, and even farther away from the metropolitan area's main employment and entertainment centers of Scottsdale, Tempe, and Chandler. The nearest public bus stop is ten miles south. Light rail? Ha. Anthem may, in fact, be the least accessible suburban community in the entire United States. There is only one way out of the community: I-17. I'm not kidding. Anthem was designed without a single connection to the Phoenix grid system, or to any surface street whatsoever. Want to see a Diamondbacks game? I-17. Eat at a restaurant not owned by the Del Webb Corporation? I-17. Beat the inbound traffic on I-17? I-17. Del Webb's marketing literature for Anthem seems to stress some nebulous notion of "community," calling it "the grandest opportunity of all." What they don't tell you is that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAVE.

Actually, Anthem isn't that awful a place. For one thing, it has a fabulous park that in additon to featuring typical park fare of softball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, and acres of grassland, also includes a full size inline hockey rink, a groovy skateboard mini-park and a train that circuits around the park. But it is true that its development has coincided with the excessive clogging of the main artery that separates northern Arizona from the Phoenix metropolitan area. Bumper to bumper traffic on an interstate highway, and now it's not just confined to Fridays and Sundays, as is per usual in the summertime.

And Anthem isn't too far from Arcosanti, an experimental town demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our destructive impact on the earth…


I suspect Anthem is an attempt to create a large metro community on the scale of Glendale between Phoenix and Prescott. I'm not quite sure if New River has all the components of a viable town, but Anthem could be the main suburban component of a New River, or Black Canyon Metropolis.
ADOT has already begun planning for major upgrades to I-17 between SR101 and New River (probably as far as Black Canyon City). Of course, it's a 20 year plan, and by the time it's complete, it'll be defunct, as is always the case (just think of I-10 between 27th-and SR101, SR51, SR202).
Major development (residential and highway) is also planned at Cordes Junction, but I'm not sure how much.

I think what's worse for Anthem, however, is that many houses were constructed on clay sediments that are still settling, creating huge issues in foundations, walls, etc. This problem may have been corrected already, but I would never want to live there (at least not yet), just as I'd never live on the eastside (especially Tempe).

I'm comfortable in my north-central location just miles from Central Phoenix, and Downtown Glendale.
Still, you're not going to create any sort of "Metropolis" from a community of 20,000 suburban homes, a park, some golf courses (in the desert?!? Sorry, Phoenix), an outlet mall, rent-a-cops, and cameras everywhere. Developers in the Phoenix metropolitan area (especially Del Webb, KB Home, Centex and the other mega-community builders) seem to be deluded by the idea that they can create community in a city of transplants by perpetuating suburban isolation.

It'll be a sad day when Phoenix cracks 4,500,000 metropolitan population without night bus service, a 24-hour walkable neighborhood, or public space not in a mall.
Agree with all of the above, but was still interested in looking by my selves. Started and stopped at the Community Park.
This was it, have not felt so unwelcome anywhere in the US. The first thing you see at the parking lot is a big sign with info about the park. The first sentence reeds something like this: This park is created for Anthem residents and Authorized Guests. How do you become an Authorized Guest, every time there is an event in the Park and you want to attend and not live in this voluntary prison, where do you apply to become an Authorized Guest. I do not need to know I will never come back! as I read in another commentary about Anthem, this must be the Highway to Hell!.
Hey, the Angry Geographer got something right. Anthem is not going to become some "Metropolis". That wasn't the intent. Eventually, it probably will be surrounded by the sprawling metropolis in the Phoenix area and will therefore be part of one. You could argue that it already is.

At that time, the fact that about 40% of the land has been set aside as open space, the fact that 300 acres on Daisy Mountain are set aside to be undisturbed and the paths and trails through the open areas of Anthem will appreciated even more.

"Angry" does tend to get other facts wrong. For instance, the outlet mall predates Anthem and is not part of the developement. What cameras and what rent-a-cops? And why would anybody in Anthem want 24 hour bus service. The last time I rode a city bus I got a headache from the noxious mix of body odor and perfumes - and that was a morning express trip. I can just imagine how fun it would be to ride on a bus filled with people who've been waiting in the hot sun in the middle of the summer. Thanks just the same.

I was born in Phoenix in 1959. Its a different kind of place from the cities back east. That can be good or bad depending on what you like. And I'm find if you prefer living with people stacked on top of each other. But I do get tired of people from back east compaining about the southwest lifestyle. But worse, I'm tired of them actually moving here and trying to re-create the place in the image of things back east. Sigh ...

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