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Best Places to Live
Phoenix, Arizona
Do you prefer the city or the suburbs? In Phoenix they are one and the same.
November 26, 2002: 5:25 PM EST
By Erica Garcia, MONEY Magazine

PHOENIX, Ariz. (MONEY Magazine) - You might think of Phoenix as a vast conglomeration of suburbs, and you'd be right. The city has grown largely by annexing its own suburban sprawl. But doesn't mean it's monotonous -- many Phoenix neighborhoods have real character.

Great places to live around Phoenix
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You'll find Saguaro cacti in the yards in Ahwatukee (pronounced ah-wah-too-kee), a southern suburb within the Phoenix city limits. Brown landscapes, or xeriscapes -- desert plants, gravel and dirt --are especially common in Ahwatukee, where many residents avoid water-guzzling lawns.

With retail development recently booming and schools with favorable student-teacher ratios and relatively affordable housing, Ahwatukee readily attracts families. A typical house runs about $250,000. The nearby South Mountain Park Preserve offers miles of rugged trails and desert scenery. One mixed blessing: To get around South Mountain, which gives this isolated suburb-in-the-city much of its charm, most drivers have to hit the congested Interstate 10 when headed downtown.

In stark contrast to Ahwatukee's desert foliage are the lush green lawns of Arcadia, a neighborhood that sits on the Phoenix and Scottsdale city line. Arcadia is a former orange grove with its own irrigation system, and rows of citrus trees line its blocks of quaint homes built in the 1950s and 1960s on large lots.

Because Arcadia is so highly regarded for its greenery and high-performance schools, which are in the Scottsdale system, prices are on the high end: Starter homes begin at $300,000. Homeowners tend to do a lot of remodeling, adding much diversity to the once similar-looking homes; it's not uncommon to see a country cottage adjacent to a Spanish hacienda. Residents brag about being close to Scottsdale's high-end shopping, a world-class resort, arts centers and good restaurants, as well as downtown Phoenix.

For real proximity to downtown Phoenix, head for the Encanto-Palmcroft district, where many houses date back to the 1920s. But the convenience costs. Smaller houses and fixer-uppers fetch about $250,000, while statelier homes attract urban professionals who shell out $500,000 and up. The neighborhood abuts 200-acre Encanto Park, another welcome patch of green in this desert town.  Top of page

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