Middle-aged farts thinking about relocating to Phoenix/Tempe area.
February 1, 2015 3:00 PM   Subscribe

We're married, no kids, early forties. Originally from Seattle, but have lived in Orlando, FL for almost a decade. We're considering an eventual move to the Phoenix area, and I'd love recommendations about what areas to consider.

I found a couple of previous asks that helped somewhat, but the most recent one is going on three years old. Plus, of course, some of our snowflake details just didn't apply.

I need a warmer climate for my arthritis, and I've been told that while the summers are gross in the Phoenix area, they're still better than Orlando. Sounds like a dry 110 degrees is more pleasant than 90 degrees with 90% humidity. We're already used to paying $100+ electric bills in the summer, so that won't be a shock. An added benefit is that my entire family has made their way over the years from the Seattle area down to Phoenix/Mesa, so we'd be close to all of them.

We wouldn't mind someplace at least a little bit hip -- I know we won't find a Fremont or Greenwood or Ballard like we had in Seattle, but I bet there are areas that are certainly cooler than the bulk of Orlando. I know that most of the suburbs are spread out, and a car is usually necessary, but we're used to that already. We expect to probably rent an apartment at first (2/2 preferably, so we can have an office), although we wouldn't mind renting a house.

Other details: We don't need an active nightlife - we're in bed by 10, so we don't mind if the town we're in shuts down before midnight. (Our idea of a hot night out is dinner at Red Robin and maybe a movie.) And we'd both be working out of the home, so we don't need to worry about being near any specific area. The entire valley is our oyster.

We're going out on a vacation to visit the family next weekend, and are hoping to scout around the areas to see if we can find areas we like. We're planning on checking out the southeast towns: Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and maybe Queen Creek (my mother reports that there's a lot of new development down that way in the last couple of years). We'll probably also check out downtown Phoenix as well. So, can you whittle down some areas we should definitely check out?
posted by themissy to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Roosevelt Row, in downtown, was the hip place to live, at least when I was there (2.5 years ago, now). It's walkable, and has dining/movies/the library/art spaces all in relatively close proximity. It's undergoing some serious gentrification, with new apartment buildings going in. There's also a lot of older housing stock available relatively close by, a bit further northwest and off the main streets. It's also all very close to the Light Rail, which gives you easy access to the airport, performances at ASU Gammage, shops in downtown Mesa. It probably trends a bit younger than you, but if you want a relatively urban experience, it's basically Where You Need To Go in Phoenix.

Further out, things get very suburban-sprawl-y very quickly. If you want a bigger living space and don't mind needing a car to get everywhere, Gilbert or Chandler could very well be your jam. Queen Creek is the same, but moreso.

Tempe is wall-to-wall ASU kids, not sure that it has much to offer you aside from what passes for cultural events at the university. Mesa's wall-to-wall mormons, near as I can tell, which may be a blessing or a curse depending on your alignment.
posted by Alterscape at 3:36 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Apartments are a good idea, I might not want to buy in Arizona because they'll be running out of cheap water pretty soon, and I'd want to keep my options open.

Another thing you should be aware of is Monsoon Season from July through September. Lots of rain, humid and hot.

As for $100+ electric bills. You wish! I remember one summer in 1976 when the SRP bill was $400. My mother cried. Just be aware.

Tempe is a nice area, with a walkable shopping district on Mill Avenue. If your folks are in the Mesa area, Tempe would be a nice place to be. Warning though, Tempe is where ASU is, and it's Par-TAY! So you may want to move a bit further out.

I grew up on South Mountain, but I wouldn't suggest that neighborhood to you.

For downtown, I like the Encanto Park area. Lots of options for older apartments, and Encanto Park is beautiful!

There's light rail downtown!

I agree with Alterscape about Mesa (I was debating if I should even mention it) but it makes for some eerie things (like soda fountains with no caffeinated beverages.)

I am bummed that three of my favorite restaurants have closed in the past year. Monte's La Casa Vieja. Mary Coyle Ice Cream and Bill Johnson's Big Apple. Boo!

When you get there, get to Poncho's. They have the best red chili (burrito, enchilada style) Others swear by Carolina's. A chili relleno is in your future.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:44 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

This maybe isn't what you're looking for, but have you considered Tucson? It's smaller than Phoenix, not quite as beastly in the summer (although still not great), and it has good restaurants/shops/etc. It's a college town, so there's definitely a youngish/hippish part of town (6th Ave and the area around campus), and it's only about a 90 min drive to Tempe and the rest of the SW Phoenix area.
posted by pdb at 4:22 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I live in Mesa. Soda fountains are adequately equipped to handle any of your caffeinated desires (contrary to common belief, Mormons are not prohibited from drinking caffeinated beverages). Anyway, depending on the area, Mesa is quite nice. We live in Northeast Mesa and have easy access to activities, restaurants, shopping, and outdoor awesomeness. 10 mins up the road we have the Salt River for kayaking, tubing, hiking. We are across the road from national park land. I go horseback riding in the desert. It's just as easy to jump on the freeway and head to Phoenix for events or to Eloy for indoor skydiving, or Tucson to visit
Kartchner Caverns. And it's awesome to look a wee but to the east and have the Superstition mountain looming over you taunting you with whispers of the Lost Dutchmans gold. Mesa is just really centrally located to all of that.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:41 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lots of great central Phoenix neighborhoods, depending on your needs and preferences: Roosevelt Row was already mentioned, but also Coronado, Willo/Encanto (pricy), FQ Story, Melrose District, Windsor Square... all of those are reasonably close to both the light rail and cool restaurants/bars/shops/cultural spots.

I did not at all expect to fall in love with this city when I moved here for work seven years ago, and it's not necessarily the easiest to get to know, but totally worth it in my experience.
posted by Superplin at 5:14 PM on February 1, 2015

Best answer: Hi potential neighbor!

I have lived in the Phoenix Metro area my whole life and have also live all over the East Valley. (Basically everywhere East of Central Ave.)

I'm currently living in a lovely older home in Tempe Gardens, and I love it. By far the best place I've lived. Tempe is the college town, and completely surrounded by other cities, so there's nowhere to grow. This means that housing costs are a bit higher, and my husband and I agree we probably paid at least a 15% premium to purchase, but we consider it worth it. We're close to almost everything. (Beware, many places say they're "close to everything" but mostly they're lying or it really depends on traffic)

We have tons of great restaurants, ethnic food stores, a public library right up the road, and more. If you want a larger house on a bigger plot, or a new/newer house that won't have as many issues, then you'll need to look farther out. Gilbert and Chandler are great second choices.

Parts of East Mesa are lovely, but restaurant and cultural event selection can be poor at times, but is completely dependent on what interests you. Scottsdale is overpriced, as always, and traffic on the 101 can be a nightmare.

Last note, I would say to avoid renting or buying in West Mesa for now, we lived there two years ago, near Country Club and University, before we bought this place. It's gone downhill. When some punk tagged our front window, we knew it was time to leave.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 5:58 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've lived in Tempe most of my adult life. My home is south of the 60 and I don't have any college students as neighbors. Homes in south Tempe can be pricier per square foot than other parts of the valley, but for me, it's worth it. I have easy access to Trader Joes, Changing Hands independent bookstore, Ikea, and plenty of restaurants. I can be at the airport in 15 minutes and in downtown Phx during rush hour in 35 minutes. The politics in Tempe are far more progressive than other areas of the valley - and while there are some lovely neighborhoods in NE Mesa as well as in Gilbert - it's the embarrassingly conservative politicians who represent those areas that keep me happily rooted in Tempe.

I agree with everything already stated by sharp pointy objects, in fact Tempe Gardens is my dream neighborhood with its walking distance to the library!
posted by kbar1 at 10:29 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: In answer to a couple of things: we aren't Mormons, but 95% of the Mormons I've met have been great people I'd love to have as neighbors. Plus, I can't drink caffeine, so the thought of multiple places having Caffeine-Free Diet Coke on tap makes me very happy.

We have thought about Tucson, but it'd be another 90+ minutes if we wanted to get to Los Angeles/Disneyland or Las Vegas, and that much farther away from my family. But if we do move out that way, we'd definitely check it out during that first year, to see if it's the place we'd want to end up.

kbar1 - your area is the primary one we've mapped out to look at. That rectangle between 60, 101, 202, and 10 seems to have all of the creature comfort things we love: IKEA, Red Robin, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and even a Mongolian grill (the last one we knew of in Orlando closed down about 5 years ago). And it looks like there are some decent apartment buildings in the area of where McClintock and Ray connect.

Thank you to everyone so far, and please, keep the recommendations coming! I keep adding dots and highlighting areas on my little map. We'll certainly have plenty to check out this weekend.
posted by themissy at 4:27 AM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: I live in the Tempe rectangle you mentioned, near Kiwanis Park, and I love it! I don't have a lot to add to kbar1's assesment, I thought they summarized the place well. South of the 60, your average household is young, post-college (or grad school), and generally liberal. Access to South Mountain is a huge bonus, the trails are beautiful and hiking and biking are 10 minutes from my house. The park is big enough that you can get into some real wilderness if you want. If you want to look at it from the investment side of things, it's really an up-and-coming area. The terrible after-effects of the real estate crisis have subsided, and I see houses being bought and renovated all around me.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: Tempe is nice. I would not recommend going too much south of Queen Creek - I had family that lived in Maricopa, and although there is a lot there, it's a 30-40 minute drive in to Phoenix, which is just long enough to get annoying if you want to do a lot of stuff in the city itself.

North Phoenix is really pretty, but might be overpriced for what you want, since it's close enough to Scottsdale that the prices rub off onto the NP neighborhoods.

One thing to remember about the heat: since it's a dry heat, evaporative cooling works. It used to freak me out to watch the guys in the family HVAC business wet down flannels with a hose and put them on to work on roofs in the summer time, but it actually helped to keep them cool.

You've lived in FL, but it still bears mentioning, although not related directly to your question: sunscreen and wear good sunglasses. AZ was (not sure if it still is) #1 in the country for skin cancer and up there for cataracts.
posted by RogueTech at 12:54 PM on February 2, 2015

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