Monday, December 23, 2013
On the front page of the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic, is a feature story on the "evolution" of Sun City, by writers Catherine Reagor and Lesley Wright. Even though I grew up -- and rode horses -- on the edge of the original Sun City, one of the earliest, and arguably the most successful age-restricted retirement communities, I didn't know the history. Some interesting details:
- The original Sun City opened in 1960, the brainchild of developer Del E. Webb, who at first thought it might be challenging to sell homes to "older" adults, given the tradition of 30-year mortgages, as people thought " they might not live that long." But, on opening day, "thousands of people showed up to see the modest block-wall homes with carports that sold for $8,500 to $11,700, $600 more for air-conditioning." (If you have ever visited the Valley of the Sun in August ... you can guess that added $600 was an easy sell.)
- Today there are three Sun Cities in the Phoenix region. The median home price in the original community is still comparatively modest at $128,750, while Sun City Grand's median price is $240,000. The median income for residents in the original community is $36,903, and for the "newer" community, median income is $55,000.
- The communities have staved off attempts (and lawsuits) to open residence to younger individuals. At least one half of a couple must be 55 or older.
- In some instances, the residents of the first Sun City are now the granchildren of earlier residents. And the legacy of homes may continue. One resident was quoted as saying, "We plan to live here until the end and leave the house to our children...."
Sunshine and golf were highlighted in the original marketing, especially to snow birds from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But the community has had to change to keep up with expectations, and the "community's improvement fund, started in 1999, pays for new amenities. Pickleball course recently were added, and gym were updates with new equiptment," thus pointing to the wider range of interests (and sun-awareness) of today's retirees.