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GetOut Notebook Website helps you explore your neighborhood on foot

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Mandy Zajac writes and edits arts, entertainment and lifestyle content for the Get Out section of the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6818 or

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 5:05 am

Let me tell you what I’m looking at as I type these words.

Windows stretch out from my desk in either direction, and through them I can see rocky buttes, traffic whizzing by on I-10, a shady pond full of speckled koi fish and red-eared slider turtles, and — the best thing — a cool, green canopy of leaves that makes me feel like I’m perched in the branches of the trees outside.

The East Valley Tribune moved over the weekend, and we’re finishing our first week of work in our new home at 1620 W. Fountainhead Parkway in Tempe. After decades in a dim, cavernous building without windows or a watertight roof, it’s a major change. Sunlight is going to take some getting used to.

So is our new neighborhood. Eager to explore it, I plugged the Trib’s new address into It’s a website that rates the “walkability” of an address, showing on a map the coffee shops, restaurants, parks, libraries and banks within walking distance.

Each address is assigned a score ranging from zero to 100. Sixty-five is “Somewhat Walkable.” Eighty-two is “Very Walkable.”

Submit some local addresses, and you’ll definitely see a reflection of the obvious: This Valley isn’t built for walking. Here, we drive our cars in from the suburbs and back out again. Take as evidence the paltry 23 (“Car-dependent”) earned by one co-worker’s Gilbert address.

Nevertheless, you’d be surprised at some of the things Walkscore can reveal, even in neighborhoods like mine, a lowly 29.

My husband and I used the site to get a sense of where we wanted to rent when we moved here three years ago. Later, it helped us discover two parks near the home we eventually purchased — even after we’d been coming and going through the neighborhood for months. It also clued us in to independent merchants and eateries tucked in shopping plazas we’d never found a reason to visit.

Moving to Tempe, I knew I’d miss the Tribune’s “Very Walkable” downtown Mesa location. The wide palo verde-shaded sidewalks were a welcome place to stroll when I got writer’s block, and Adorn Style Lounge, the Antique Plaza, Mystic Paper, Queen’s Pizzeria, Sweet Cakes’ yogurt bar and the outdoor spaces at Mesa Arts Center were friendly places to while away a lunch hour.

Fortunately, Walkscore has helped me get a head start on finding new spots. Give it a try sometime; you may find something new-to-you around the corner from your home or office.

(Oh, and a big thanks to all of you who sent in your fine dining recommendations since last week. We went with Bogey’s Steak and Seafood this round, but we now have a list of places to try for the next three or four celebrations that come along.)

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or

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