The Retail Wars: The Built Suburban Environment and the Evolution of Community in Maryvale, Arizona, 1970–80

Saturday, January 9, 2016
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Anthony Charles Pratcher II, University of Pennsylvania
This project examines the relationship between the built environment and the formation of community in the suburban Sunbelt neighborhood of Maryvale, Arizona. Maryvale, one of the first master-planned communities in the Phoenix area, is a 20 mi.2 development built on the western edge of Phoenix between 1955 and 1980. Like many other post-war suburbs, Maryvale emanated from the primordial agricultural fields outside of a metropolitan city and was rapidly transformed into a suburban neighborhood as homebuyers and commercial investors from all over the country helped create a community capable of sustaining both commercial and residential activity. This project seeks to understand how developer John F. Long and the residents of his subdivisions came to experience community as a public good to be created and as a private commodity to be consumed. This project studies the experience, as opposed to the process, of how community was organized and operated. Using government planning records, Social Explorer census data, and ArcGIS mapping systems, this study shows that the spatial development of suburban space was fashioned with a concept of community in mind, that community-oriented “neighborhood niches,” “anchoring institutions,” and “third places” had to form and develop within the framework of this built environment, and that the primary mode of community formation came through residents’ consumption of amenities constructed by developers to appeal to their tastes and identity status as opposed to the creation of civic organizations, public festivals, or “pocket neighborhoods” by residents. The conceptualization and experience of community formation in Maryvale makes it an ideal case study on the creation and consumption of community in postwar America.
See more of: Poster Session # 1
See more of: AHA Sessions