The Culdesac Tempe community is the first of its kind in Arizona and in the nation, according to company officials, and the company’s priority is “building cities for people, not cars.” Culdesac Tempe is a $170 million project with 761 residential units, 16,000 square feet of retail and 35,000 square feet of amenities on 17 acres. The rest of the residential units will continue to open in phases, according to company officials.
Residents will not have private cars or parking spaces, although the retail area will have parking for retail visitors and resident guests, according to the company.
The first phase of the project is set to open this fall with about 50 residential units, a grocery store, a restaurant, coworking space, a coffee shop and a bike shop.
“The community is 100% for rent,” said Erin Boyd, head of business operations at Culdesac. “We wanted to make sure that the amenities of the community opened in the first phase, so the first phase is really mixed-use, with apartments on top of the coffee shop and coworking spaces.”
The community is being built adjacent to a stop on the Valley Metro light rail and near several bus routes. Culdesac Tempe will also serve as the city’s first mobility hub—a place designed for people to choose a more sustainable mode of transportation than a single-occupancy vehicle.
“We want this to be a whole new lifestyle,” Boyd said.
Building a carless community
In the urban sprawl of the greater Phoenix area, a carless community might come as a shock to some residents. Boyd said the Culdesac co-founders have deep Arizona roots and roomed together at The University of Arizona in Tucson. Their studies and travels inspired them to think of better ways to design cities and communities, Boyd said.
“They saw the trend of people looking for more walkable communities,” Boyd said. “And there was not much supply of it. One of our goals is to create more housing supply [for] walkable neighborhoods. A lot of people thought this was impossible.”
Construction on the community, located at 2025 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, began in 2019. Culdesac Tempe is being built in collaboration with Sunbelt.
“This project wouldn’t be possible without generations of transportation planners,” Boyd said. “Without the foresight of the light rail and a stop right by the community, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Residents will get $3,000 in mobility credits annually that can be used with Valley Metro or Tempe transportation methods, Boyd said. The community also has a partnership with Lyft and Bird for car and scooter needs. There will be rental electric cars on the premises as well, Boyd said.
“And the community is open to everyone,” Boyd said. “In that mobility hub aspect, it’s a safe place to catch a Lyft or get on the light rail.”
Culdesac Tempe opened its waitlist in January 2020, and it was nearly immediately oversubscribed, Boyd said. Of the units opening this fall, 75% are already leased, with the remaining units to be made available when it opens, she said.
The units are priced at market pricing, Boyd said, and they range from studios to three-bedroom spaces. Specific costs were not available as of press time.
“The two largest payments a household makes are on housing costs and transportation costs,” Boyd said. “People living here don’t have to worry about gas, car insurance, repairs and other vehicle-related expenses. And you’re getting the perk of mobility benefits.”
Boyd said it is the company’s goal to bring in as many local partners as possible. Local residents will create the public art throughout the property, and Culdesac Tempe will feature local businesses, such as Cocina Chiwas—a family-owned restaurant inspired by Chihuahua, Mexico, that is the first full-menu concept of the Tacos Chiwas brand—and Firecreek Coffee, a Flagstaff-based artisan coffee shop that will open its first Tempe store.
The community will also feature grocer Street Corner, a regional convenience and superette franchise that will open its first Arizona store in Culdesac Tempe.
Boyd said the company hopes to bring its carless communities to cities across the U.S.
Meeting city goals
Robert Yabes, principal transportation planner at the city of Tempe, said this first-of-its-kind community makes sense in Tempe given the city’s transit access.
Culdesac is working with the city on improvements to the surrounding transit systems and roads. Yabes said Culdesac also volunteered to become a mobility hub.
“Those mobility hubs try to group things that could help people who choose to remain carless get where they need to go,” Yabes said. “Within there, there will be access to [ridesharing], scooters, electronic bikes [and] charging stations. Culdesac is doing things to provide those amenities, not just to the residents that live there but to all residents.”
Braden Kay, director of sustainability at the city of Tempe, said Culdesac Tempe will encourage a low-carbon lifestyle, not just for its residents but hopefully for all residents.
“It’s making people’s lifestyles more sustainable,” Kay said. “It’s creating a lifestyle where you don’t have to have a car. ... [This development] marks a shift—we’ve seen lower parking requirements in developments but not no parking. Culdesac was ready for that full transition. That’s a bold move.”
Kay said that boldness might make other developers consider ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a community—a goal of the city’s climate action plan.
“Not every developer needs to go as whole hog as this one,” Kay said. “But it makes everyone else think and consider transit options. Culdesac has blown it out of the water. Part of the reason there are forerunners [is] because it moves the entire average. We absolutely want less parking. Not only do they have bold leadership, but they are shifting the average.”