Chandler AZ -The City Beautiful?

I was in Chandler, Arizona last week.   On a September morning I stepped outside my friend’s house to make a phone call (long story about lack of cell-reception inside the house).  I looked around.  No-one to be seen.  Admittedly it was 101 degrees,  but that didn’t make the view of the deserted street in the  new suburb any less daunting.

I wonder how this became someone’s idea of a city:  Identical bland subdivisions stretching for miles and miles.  Camouflage beige brick walls shielding them from the street.  Each house a duplicate of the one next to it.  3-car garages in lieu of front porches..  It’s not a neighborhood, it’s a cluster of nondescript pods surrounded by five foot high walls. They are spacious and comfortable pods, no argument there–they have  flat panel televisions, KitchenAid refrigerators, surround sound and all the modern day staples, as well as family pictures  and homey touches.  But they hermetically sealed to the outside.  They have no shared spaces, no outward side of inner life, no color, no welcome. And they don’t make a community.  Not even Identical CVS Drugstores on every other southeast corner and Mini-mails full of franchise chains on every other northwest corner can make it so.

This was not the vision.

Chandler was founded by  Dr. Alexander John Chandler.  In 1887 Dr. Chandler arrived in Prescott, the capital of the Arizona Territory as the first appointed veterinary surgeon to the region.  According the Chandler Chamber of Commerce website: “Unfortunately, the entire southwest was experiencing a severe drought. Dr. Chandler found that he was unable to help the area’s cattle herds and resigned his post and made plans to move on to California. However, as he arrived in the small frontier town of Phoenix, a deluge of rain began to fall that halted all travel. Dr. Chandler watched from his hotel room as the desert blossomed into a fantastic array of renewed life. The doctor, moved by what he saw and the possibilities it foretold, reconsidered his resignation and canceled his departure. Seeing the great changes that the rain brought to the parched soil, Dr. Chandler began to learn about irrigation methods. Returning with the financial backing of two Detroit friends, Dr. Chandler formed the Consolidated Canal Company. When the Granite Reef Dam to the southeast of Phoenix was completed in 1908, water from the Salt River was available for all canals to the south. Thousands of acres were put under cultivation, but there was still not enough water to keep the land from remaining dry. In 1911, the Roosevelt Dam was completed, but each landowner was restricted to irrigating only 160 acres. Dr. Chandler was forced to subdivide his nearly 18,000 acre ranch and he began to advertise and marker his land to draw settlers to the area. He  hired a city planner and an architect to design a planned community with spacious lots, wide boulevards and a town green unique to the Southwest.”

Ironically, Chandler was inspired by the city beautiful movement.  A late 19th century idea that believed that a beautiful city would create harmony and improve quality of life.

So how did that vision become this?

Chandler today
Chandler today

Even more significantly, I ask myself,  as an artist, how can community possibly flourish here, with no bridge to the outside world?  How do I reach these people?  Not with homogenized pop radio,  cable television, NPR  or Facebook–but with what is happening under there very noses.  How do I draw them out of their pods to experience local music or theater?  How do I put them in relationship to the painters,  poets, potters, woodworkers, glass blowers and jazz musicians who could make their homes, their lives and their community richer.

Tell me.  How do we build community in a place like Chandler?  How do we get people to think outside the pod–If only as far as to add some color other than tan, beige or gray to their exterior walls?   The desert can still bloom.  But we can’t just leave it up to the flowers.

Here is a  blog post that echoes this view.

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6 Replies to “Chandler AZ -The City Beautiful?”

  1. Thanks for the shoutout~ and Yes, I have to agree with you. I sell real estate here in Chandler and there are many positives, however, the subdivision charm…or lack thereof, never ceases to amaze me. How I long for good ol’ wrap around porches, plaster walls and picket fences. Someday, I will return to the land of my youth…where everybody (or at least your neighbor) knows your name.

  2. I Caught sight of your blog on WordPress Readomatic and had to visit. You touched a couple nerves we apparently share in common. Perhaps that’s related to having the same first name (Darrell). At any rate, the current phenomenon of cookie-cutter communities began, I think, with the Levittown NY development following World War two. In our rush to provide “houses” we forgot some of the essential qualities that really create a community. Regarding the disappearance of porches, which in Chandler AZ may make some sense, my father used to say that Air-Conditioning led to crime because before AC, everyone sat on their front porch in the evening and watched the street. No anonymity – which is overabundant in the homogenous earth-tone subdivisions we see today.
    ///Darrell Elmer Rodgers
    Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist
    http://darrellsongs.com

  3. Great website! I cannot remember too clearly but I think I found your site through a link someone shared on Twitter. . I like the way you write and I am going to subscribe to read more whenever I can. Oh yeah, are you on Twitter yet?

  4. Intimately, the post is in reality the freshest on this worthw hile topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates. Saying thanks will not just be adequate, for the wonderful clarity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Good work and much success in your business efforts!

  5. Thanks for the shoutout~ and Yes, I have to agree with you. I sell real estate here in Chandler and there are many positives, however, the subdivision charm…or lack thereof, never ceases to amaze me. How I long for good ol’ wrap around porches, plaster walls and picket fences. Someday, I will return to the land of my youth…where everybody (or at least your neighbor) knows your name.
    +1

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