“I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and you. And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” Louis Armstrong sang. If you replace the red roses with cactus in the famous Louis Armstrong serenade, “What a Wonderful World,” you’ve captured the essence of the West Valley.
Don’t be quick to chastise West Valley advocates for being overly sentimental. After all, thanks to a new method of collecting data, the West Valley assets have become more apparent than ever – from roses and cacti to an impressive skilled workforce, attractive housing options and enough retail offerings to make even a major metropolis blush. The quality of life in the West Valley has never looked better and champions of the West Valley challenge you not to sing her praises.
Becoming even more of a wonderful world west of the 17
Of 1.5 million Phoenicians, 40 percent reside west of the I-17. Why? Imagine a mash-up of all the diversity, culture and novelty of a city with the nuance, charm and intimacy that comes from a small town. You’ve just envisioned the West Valley, but don’t take my word for it.
“One area where the West Valley really shines,” says Brian Friedman, economic director for Glendale, “is that we have all the offerings of a cosmopolitan region, but there is something different and something to be proud of in our communities and what they offer individually.”
In Glendale’s case, there is a lot to offer.
“Westgate alone boasts 21 restaurants,” Friedman explains. “We also have the sports arena, Cabela’s, Tanger Outlet (which just finished a third addition), American Furniture Warehouse, John Simon medical facility, Credit Union West with an impressive 80,000 square feet of space, Conair and more.”
The “more” according to Friedman, is approximately 2.8 million square feet of non-residential space.
“I remember when the arena was the only thing out there,” Friedman says, “and observing a sign stating ‘$0.75 per square foot.’ Now, that same property is worth $19.75 per square foot.”
Nearby, Peoria is drawing attention for the development of P83, a comprehensive entertainment district housing a sports complex, dining and shopping among its various offerings.
“We have received a proposal for a nine-acre development near the sports development along the Loop 101 and Peoria Avenue with Plaza Companies,” says Scott Whyte, Peoria’s economic development director.
New additions have also been added to West Valley sister cities: Goodyear’s Estrella Falls commercial area, Tolleson’s downtown redevelopment efforts and the expansive Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye, to name a few.
More than quality brick and mortar
The image and offerings of the West Valley extend beyond purely aesthetics and retail square footage.
“This summer, we’re kicking off a quality of life committee,” explains WESTMARC President and CEO Sintra Hoffman. “Years ago, we didn’t have executive housing or a vehicle for highlighting our impressive workforce. We have that now, in addition to 3,000 square miles of unique offerings.”
Hoffman brings to light the charm and culture of West Valley hot spots like Wickenburg, alongside cities such as Buckeye, that in addition to having an air of historical magnetism, also has the caliber of housing of which she refers.
Even beyond a well-stocked retail pool and housing, the West Valley has an incredible recreational portfolio that includes Skyline Regional Park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Estrella Mountain Regional Park and Lake Pleasant Regional Park, to name a few. All of which offer residents and visitors anything from hiking and biking to special family programming and several seasonal recreation options.
The West Valley also accommodates the desires of sports fans. Serving as a primary hub for the Cactus League, baseball enthusiasts can catch a spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark, Peoria Sports Complex, Camelback Ranch and Surprise Stadium. Of course, football fans are graced with Glendale’s sports arena should they want to catch a Cardinals game.
While the West Valley certainly boasts its share of impressive venues from sports and entertainment to outdoor recreation, there are equal, if not more intimate city-specific opportunities in which residents may partake. For example, it’s a little-known fact that the West Valley has a wide-range of health and wellness outlets and opportunities.
“We’re working on an eight-page brochure that visually highlights the specific offerings within the West Valley,” Hoffman says. “Including local yoga studios and classes, gyms, boot camps and wellness outlets.”
Quality and quantity, even more value added to quality of life
While the housing, amenities and recreational aspects of the West Valley are clearly bountiful, there are other factors that contribute to the wonder of West Valley life.
“I was actually raised in East Phoenix, but chose to move to the West Valley,” explains Goodyear Economic Director Michelle Lawrie, “because of it being known as a quality community that has a great reputation statewide.”
In fact, Lawrie’s home city, Goodyear, has been consistently recognized by national and state entities, as one of the best communities in which to live.
According to Lawrie, this has much to do with amenities as it does to Goodyear’s low poverty rate, high average household income, positive employment growth and the fact that Goodyear is acknowledged as a safe place to live.
Many West Valley cities share these attributes and more. Educational offerings, for example, only further add to the quality of life and opportunity within the West Valley. Arizona State University has a West Campus, Northern Arizona University has several campuses and of course, there is a host of highly reputable community colleges, private colleges and career technical education facilities — from Estrella Community College to Grand Canyon University and West-Mec, as examples.
For those who live, work and play in the wonderful world of the West Valley, they stand behind its charm, value and culture, and so do those whose jobs it is to ensure the longevity and safe keeping of a cherished quality of life.
“Many of us have known each other for a long time,” explains Friedman. “We know what opportunities are available; we know what we have to offer. We also know that it’s rightfully and statistically the time for the West Valley to shine.”