Editor’s note: This is the last in a two-part timeline celebrating Arizona’s centennial. The first part appeared in the March 14 AFN ‘Tukee Talk.
Statehood day has come and gone, but our celebration of Arizona’s centennial takes a decidedly local turn in this look at milestones that helped to shape Ahwatukee Foothills. Exhausting but by no means exhaustive, this compilation concludes with the naming of the village in 1991.
1970: Randall Presley acquires 2,080 acres west of the freeway. Area is considered remote and isolated by Interstate 10 and South Mountain.
1971: Cities of Tempe and Chandler reject Presley’s overture for annexation. In anticipation of future development, freeway access ramps are constructed at Elliot Road.
1971: Land planner A. Wayne Smith creates the initial master plan for Ahwatukee, the first master-planned community south of South Mountain. Plans approved by Maricopa County in November.
1972: Initial development of the future Ahwatukee Foothills begins with construction of the Ahwatukee Country Club golf course and recreation center.
1972: Helena Belden (see 1929) dies. Utah alfalfa farmer and land investor LeRoy Smith acquires Pima Ranch’s 2,600 acres in the future Mountain Park Ranch from her estate.
1973: Presley opens 17 model homes on Mesquitewood Drive. Ahwatukee Grand Opening is in April.
1973: There was $5 million set aside by the Arizona Legislature for construction of a prison on 320 acres of state land just west of the proving grounds. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
1973: Mac and Ellie Roach become Ahwatukee’s first residents in September, on Magic Stone Drive.
1974: Ahwatukee Recreation Center opens in February with singer Tennessee Ernie Ford as pitchman, fueling the perception of Ahwatukee as a retirement community.
Mid-1970s: LeRoy Smith sells Presley 620 acres landlocked at the base of South Montain, for eventual development as Ahwatukee’s Custom Estates.
1975: The Ahwatukee Ranch house, having stood for 54 years but now in disrepair, is demolished.
1976: Ahwatukee Sentinel debuts as predecessor of the Ahwatukee News.
1976: Circle K opens on Elliot Road as Ahwatukee’s first retail establishment. It would remain the only food store in Ahwatukee until 1980.
1976: Byron Slawson, caretaker of the Ahwatukee Ranch, dies after living on the ranch property for 53 years.
1976: Kyrene de las Lomas Elementary, Ahwatukee’s first school, opens in December on the Warner-Elliot Loop at Equestrian Trail.
1977: Ahwatukee’s first Easter parade is on April 9. The only float in the parade carries two Presley Development Co. secretaries.
1977: Mountain View Lutheran Church becomes Ahwatukee’s first house of worship, serving as a meeting place for several denominations until construction of their own facilities over the next couple of decades.
1977: LeRoy Smith hires A. Wayne Smith to help market his Pima Ranch property. Results in the initial design of the eventual Mountain Park Ranch.
1978: Nebraskan Clay Schad begins publishing the Ahwatukee News as a four-page monthly newspaper in July. Initial press run of 2,000 is largely distributed to businesses on the Tempe side of the freeway.
1979: The Slawson house, completed during construction of Casa de Suenos in 1921, is demolished.
1979: Ahwatukee’s first gas station opens in October and is followed a month later by its first shopping plaza tenant, Millie’s Hallmark Card store.
1980: Elliot Road’s Ahwatukee Plaza opens at the southwest corner of 51st Street and Elliot Road, giving the future village its first grocery store, Alpha Beta, in its first shopping plaza. Circle K’s run as a main source of sustenance ends.
1980: The House of the Future on Equestrian Trail opens in March. By the time its last tour bus idles four years later, 250,000 people have visited it, with millions more viewing the house through major-media coverage in 33 countries.
1980: Charles Keating’s Continental Homes acquires the future Mountain Park Ranch from LeRoy Smith. City of Phoenix agrees to annex and Continental begins initial offsite infrastructure development.
1981: “Annexation Implications” report by city of Phoenix projects 86,000 people as eventual residents of the future Ahwatukee Foothills. Based on 1980 census data, the combined population of the future Mountain Park Ranch and Lakewood is 19, with 11 more in The Foothills and Club West-to-be. Included in the report is a recommendation for a six-lane, controlled-access road along Pecos Road, connecting the area with Phoenix’s 51st Street.
1981: International Harvester builds $2.5 million sales center on its proving grounds. The building subsequently becomes The Foothills Golf Club clubhouse.
1982: Harvester pledges its 6.5-square-mile property as collateral against a $28 million patent-infringement award to John Deere and Company.
1982: City of Phoenix annexes 16.5 square miles of the future Ahwatukee Foothills, including portions of what would become Mountain Park Ranch, Lakewood and The Foothills.
1983: Land planner A.Wayne Smith buys five distressed acres in south Phoenix and transforms them into The Farm at South Mountain.
1984: In January, Arizona developer Robert Burns of Burns International acquires Harvester’s 4,140 acres for approximately $20 million. At the time, it is the largest single real estate transaction between one buyer and one seller in Phoenix history.
1984: Official groundbreaking in March on Mountain Park Ranch, at the time the largest proposed master-planned community in the city of Phoenix.
1984: Keating’s Continental Homes, having sold its interest in Mountain Park Ranch to Canadian developer Genstar, buys the square-mile Collier-Evans Ranch for development as Lakewood.
1985: First homeowners move into Mountain Park Ranch in April.
1985: Voters approve half-cent sales tax to fund a freeway along Ahwatukee’s southern border. Plans are to commence construction within a few years.
1986: Interstate 10 access ramps open at Warner and Ray roads. Freeway traffic slows to a crawl.
1986: Del Webb joint-ventures with Burns International, and Foothills groundbreaking occurs in May. Webb Marketing Director Ann Glover strings lights on Chandler Boulevard in December, the first display in what would evolve into today’s annual Festival of Lights.
1987: Estes Homes buys part of the Goldman Dairy land for $47,000 an acre. The dairy once again relocates, this time to Coolidge.
1987: Burns makes its first sale, in April, to the Arizona Department of Transportation. The 500-foot-wide, multi-mile-long strips of land at the southernmost part of its project just north of Pecos Road are designated as a clean-take area for a future freeway.
1987: Annexation process completed. “Ahwatukee” mailing address dropped in favor of “The Big City” (Phoenix).
1988: First homeowners move into The Foothills in July.
1988: UDC Homes buys the 1,100-acre Phase 3 of The Foothills, giving rise to the future Club West.
1991: Mountain Pointe High School opens on Knox Road as Ahwatukee’s first high school. Joined five years later by Deserta Vista High School on South 32nd Street.
1991: City of Phoenix designates 35.8 square miles as the Village of Ahwatukee Foothills.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Marty Gibson is the author of “Phoenix’s Ahwatukee Foothills.” Contact him at email@example.com.