The opening of Tempe Town Lake in 1999 spurred shoreside commercial and residential development that greatly accelerated urbanization of the old college town.
Gary Nelson/AFN Contributor

East Valley cities face several challenges as they prepare for continued growth in coming decades.


Planners in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert all say they have developed robust and diverse water portfolios.

Eric Braun, Gilbert’s water resources manager, said Gilbert has complied with state law proving the town can meet estimated demand for the next 100 years. But he said, “As Gilbert continues to grow, water supply will always be a consideration for balancing growth and cost of service.”

He said Gilbert is promoting conservation as an alternative to developing additional sources, which are becoming more expensive.


New uses may be proposed for older parts of the cities, creating conflict with existing neighbors.

David de la Torre, chief planner for Chandler, said “there are existing low-density neighborhoods surrounding those (redevelopment) areas, and we just want to be sure that those are protecting the property values and are compatible with those areas.”

Many likely redevelopment sites in Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert also abut established residential areas.

Affordable Housing

Not everyone can afford the high-end apartments and condos that are multiplying in such areas as downtown Tempe.

Melanie Dykstra, community resources program supervisor for Gilbert, said federal programs help.

And, she said, “Gilbert partners with a nonprofit organization to purchase, rehabilitate and rent affordable housing units to income-eligible residents.” In addition, another nonprofit refurbishes homes for low-income residents.

Mesa and Tempe have seen the development of several low-income housing projects along the light rail line, and Chandler planner de la Torre said Chandler will work to retain the more affordable housing that already exists in some older neighborhoods.

Climate Change

A study published this summer in the journal Science said counties in Arizona could lose 10 to 20 percent of their economic activity by the 2080s if present climate trends continue.

Those losses could occur in the form of heat-related deaths, vastly higher energy costs and diminished productivity of outdoor workers, the study said.

On the other hand, some analysts said the study can’t account for possible future changes in technology and society that could mitigate or reverse rising temperatures.

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