Desert Ridge, becoming the Diamond in the Desert

My wife and I bought our first Desert Ridge home in 2005.  We purchased here because the plans for Desert Ridge were robust and exciting, featuring the largest regional Mall in the Southwest with high level entertainment, the Desert Ridge Marketplace, the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, 16,000 homes, quality schools, The Mayo hospital as well as plans for several iconic corporations to build their headquarters, easy access to points all over the valley on the proposed 101.  All built from the desert floor up and carved out of a 5-square mile section of Northeast Phoenix.  A blueprint for success that suggested a home purchase in Desert Ridge could be a great investment.  We were anxious to get in and ride the wave. Then came 2008.

The economic crash of 2008 put an end to those hopes and dreams. We were left with half-finished sub communities, acres of undeveloped desert land, homes worth half of what we paid, the abandonment of some projects and promises of others to return once the economic crises ended and the economy turned north.

The economy did stabilize and turn north about two years later. However, developers who had previously purchased parcels with plans to build forfeited their land claims back to the state and abandoned plans to build here.  No longer were big box retailers interested in adding stores, therefore developers stopped building large regional enclosed malls.  The Mall we hoped would bring prominence to the area was deemed no longer viable. Restaurants vacated the area, smaller retailers succumbed to bankruptcy and closed their doors. The master developer of Desert Ridge filed for bankruptcy twice.  Desert Ridge seemed closer to being a ghost town like those portrayed in the old wild west movies than a vibrant city within a city it was envisioned to be.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, something is happening here and it is exciting.

Long gone is the dream of Desert Ridge’s symbol being a massive high end retail mall visible to all traveling on the 101. Little by little unique restaurant concepts and entertainment venues are opening in Desert Ridge.  “For rent” signs are being replaced with “opening soon” and “now open” signs. We are becoming a destination for fun, food, and entertainment. Who needs a big box retailer to be our savior, we are becoming #greatdestinationlocation before our very eyes.

I personally find this metamorphosis exciting. My wife and I are Chicago area transplants. There, we’re accustomed to short excursions to find live entertainment, events, and fun places to drop in for food and drink. For years here my wife and I would head out to Cave Creek or downtown Phoenix to seek live entertainment. We thought the 51 extension was the best thing to come to Desert Ridge since the 101, as it gave us easy access to downtown Phoenix.  But those days are over.  #It’sallhappeninghere.

First we ventured over to the MIM to take in a few concerts.  Great music with acoustics about as close to perfect as sound can be.  Then we started hanging out at Blue Martini to grab an adult beverage or two while listening to live music.  Then Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy opened.  We started dropping in to see some outrageous stand-up comedians. We learned about open mic Tuesdays and decided to give them a try. We figured it’s only a 5-minute drive. It became one of our favorite things as we often leave with sore sides from laughing. Then just down the street High and Rye opened and turned their stage into raucous music venue.

But what solidified the metamorphosis of Desert Ridge from decimated development to entertainment destination for us was a trip to CB Live.  Depending on the night, you can see live acts on their stage, then wait for it—the wall goes up and whoa, you’re rocking the rest of the night away to some hard driving bands. #DesertRidgehascomealive.

When my wife and I left CB Live and drove the 1.25 miles back home, we talked about the changes we have seen here in just the last couple of years.  Toll brothers completed the Villages at Aviano community, Statesman is in mega building mode at Toscana, DR Horton is about to break ground on their new 666 home community plus 260 apartments east of 56th,  which will include the development of a 10 acre public park, the MIM awesome exhibits, the medical and research facilities being built in Mayo hospital corridor, The Phoenix Park district is in the middle of their major park complex along Reach 11 which includes the dog park, sports fields and plans for youth activities, developers are in discussion with the DRCA about developing several of the available super blocks, and now we are an entertainment destination featuring downtown quality entertainment.  And this is only the beginning. #excitementinDesertRidge.

If you’ve lived here for a while, I compare it to an awakening from hibernation. If you are new to Desert Ridge I say your timing is excellent.  I invite you to plan an outing in Desert Ridge. Take in a show at one of the comedy clubs or music venues or both.  Take the family over to the MIM. Their exhibits rival those in any big city museum. Dine at (m)any of the restaurants. There are so many choices for everyone. Or, just spend some time hiking or biking around town. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty great place to be. It may not be exact to the plan of 25 years ago but that may be a good thing.  That was a plan for a ¼ of a century ago. What’s happening here is for today.  Fun never goes out of style.  #thediamondinthedesert.  #supportDesertRidge

Rob Reichstein
Communications Chair
Desert Ridge Community Association