An Overview of Gilbert’s Agritopia Development
by Michelle Kelly, founder -One World One Time
Agritopia is a residential master planned community in Gilbert, Arizona. Located in the middle of what was once farm country on the far outskirts of the Phoenix area, the neighborhood is now centrally located in the growing community of Gilbert. The community, unlike the surrounding neighborhoods, has retained its history and sense of place by celebrating its agricultural roots by continuing to farm, offering rentable community garden space, a weekly farmers market and farm restaurants.
A Sustainable Community
Beyond sustaining its agricultural roots, other sustainable features of the project include:
- A celebration of traditional Phoenix area architecture with front porches, awnings and overhangs to create shade and encourage community building by making porches the dominant feature of homes
- Narrower streets with large trees to provide shade canopy
- Master plan includes a variety of housing ranging from multi-family to small single family homes to senior living
- Retained old farm house buildings and renovated them into a restaurant, coffee shop, scooter store and farmers market
- Community code allows for home based businesses with employees, alleviating the need for traveling outside the community for work for some residents
- Planned mixed-use development to provide currently lacking amenities, furthering the walkability and community building
The primary unsustainable feature of the community is its location; many residents travel toPhoenixand other surrounding communities, which could be more than 30 miles away.
The community was designed to facilitate transportation on foot and bike throughout the community by creating shaded pathways and walkways on the residential streets and to the community amenities – parks, the school, community garden and restaurants. Bike racks have been provided at the retail areas of the community. Streets were built narrower than typical community streets with shade trees planted on either side to provide thermal comfort during the hot summers. Because few amenities are offered within the community currently, transportation by car is necessary and the narrower lanes encourage slower rates of speed on secondary streets. Agritopia Loop is the only main connector road connecting the community that is gridded with these secondary roads.
Physical and Cultural Influences
Agritopia stands out amongst thePhoenixsuburban sprawl. Unlike the surrounding master planned communities, Agritopia celebrates its prior agricultural land use, demonstrated in many subtle and overt ways. As such it attracts residents that value sharing, community building and a simpler way of life that theJohnstonfamily has created. Ways that its history as agricultural land are integrated and celebrated in Agritopia include:
- Preserving urban agriculture with a 15-acre urban farm
- Citrus around the community can be picked and enjoyed by everyone
- Community garden plots available to Agritopia residents and non-residents alike
- Reuse of the originalJohnstonfamily farm house as Joe’s Farm Grill as well as other original farm buildings
Taking its cues from the way life was when theJohnstonfamily bought the farm property, the homes and scale of the community are reminiscent of a bygone era and a simpler way of life. Front porches, varying size and type of homes and the pedestrian friendly design of the community encourage community building. The diversity of housing options attracts childless couples to young families through grandparents. With future plans for senior living the community seeks to be a place that families can mature with and stay rooted within Agritopia.
Other future plans include a mixed-use development on the corner of the community bordering the main arterial roads, which will encourage both Agritopia and surrounding community engagement. This development will also provide other amenities currently lacking within walking distance of the community furthering its sustainability.
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