Surprise, Arizona

Housing shifts to the west along 2 critical corridors. When Surprise's forefathers incorporated the city in 1960, it covered one square mile and was home to 1,000 residents. But over the next few decades, Surprise could become one of the largest cities in the state, spreading out over 300 square miles with 40,000 residents.

Dozens of massive residential projects are being plotted or built along two important transportation corridors: Grand Avenue and Sun Valley Parkway.

Among them are Asante (14,000 homes) and Daimler Chrysler (21,161 homes) along Grand, and Fox Trail (3,000 homes) and Surprise Farms (2,129 homes) along Sun Valley Parkway.

"We are really shifting this city to the west," said City Councilman Cliff Elkins, whose district includes open expanses of desert and farmland along both corridors. "Surprise is going from a minor, small city to one of the major cities in Arizona."

The way Surprise is developing has changed dramatically in recent years, city officials said.

In 2000, developers were still building quiet bedroom communities, homes far from workplaces and shopping centers.

Today, guided by a new vision from city leaders, developers are creating more self-reliant communities, with their own grocery stores, restaurants, job centers, schools, parks and libraries.

"(Residents) will see Surprise as a collection of places each with a district center" said Scott Chesney, the city community development director. "It will take on a metropolitan flavor"

Surprise resident Betty Carino, an esthetician who moved from Scottsdale two years ago, seems resigned to the fact that the Northwest Valley city's population would continue to swell. "It's going to come. You can't stop it. People are moving here from all over because it's still affordable," said Carino, who bought a new home near Bell Road and Loop 303. "You're not going to stop the developers."

As developers put forth proposals for master-planned communities, the city will be annexing more than 200 square miles of land stretching out to Maricopa County line near Wickenburg. Up to three significant annexations will occur by spring 2007 that could bring up to 35,000 acres into the city, Chesney said.

One of those parcels is in the 3,600-acre, $1 Billion Asante project, at Grand and 163rd avenues just northwest of Loop 303. Lennar Corp. plans to build 14,000 homes on the site.

Alan Jones, Lennar's regional vice president, said residential builders are jumping at opportunities to develop open desert land rather than undertake infill and redevelopment projects in older, rundown neighborhoods.
Growth in a Snapshot