Aug 2, 2023 - Development

First look: Culdesac brings car-free living to car-centric Phoenix

A colorful apartment building.

The apartment buildings are close together to increase shade and walkability. Photo: Courtesy of Culdesac

In a metro that's been called "sprawling," "car-centric" and "the world's least sustainable city," one new development stands in steadfast defiance.

State of play: Culdesac, near downtown Tempe, is Arizona's first car-free community and it looks and feels entirely different from the dozens of other apartment buildings springing up across the Valley.

  • That's in large part because it doesn't dedicate half its land to parking, the way a typical development would, Culdesac external affairs lead Erin Boyd tells us. Instead, 55% of its 17 acres is reserved for public space, in the form of wide paseos, gathering areas, restaurants and a grocery store.
  • The development mimics the design and architecture of a European metropolitan with the buildings close together to provide shade throughout. There's no asphalt in order to combat the urban heat island effect.

Why it matters: This housing project shows what's possible in a city with an increasing number of mass transit and micro-mobility options and offers a product for people who want a car-free lifestyle.

  • At a large enough scale, this type of development that eliminates private vehicles could help with Phoenix's ozone pollution.

The intrigue: The gamble of selling carless living in car-dependent Phoenix seems to be paying off: There's a waitlist of 600 people who have paid a deposit to live at Culdesac, Boyd says.

People riding e-bikes through a paseo.
The first 250 residents will receive a free Lectric e-bike. Photo: Courtesy of Culdesac

How it works: There are only pay-to-park visitor spots, since residents are encouraged to use alternative transportation, like:

  • Light rail: The apartment complex is across from the Smith-Martin/Apache station and Culdesac worked with the city to build a crosswalk that will give residents direct access to the platform.
  • Bikes and e-bikes: The first 250 residents will receive a free Lectric e-bike. Archer's Bikes will also open an on-site shop with special resident perks.
  • Rideshare: Residents will get 15% off Lyft rides and there will be dedicated pickup and drop-off spots at the complex.
  • Scooters: There will be 100-plus Bird scooters on-site.
  • Carshare: Residents can use Envoy to rent electric vehicles by the hour or day.

The latest: The onsite restaurant Cocina Chiwas — an upscale sister of Tacos Chiwas — opened in February. The first 16 residents arrived in May.

  • Street Corner Urban Market, the development's grocery store, will open later this month, and the next batch of residents are expected to arrive in September.
  • By February 2024, 130 units will have opened. Ultimately, there will be 761 apartments, ranging from a $1,500/month studio to a $3,000/month three-bedroom.

Between the lines: Culdesac's cofounders are from the Valley.

  • Ryan Johnson was on the founding team of real estate giant Opendoor and Jeff Berens was an economic developer.

What's next: Culdesac began hosting the Little Cholla Night Market to bring vendors, food trucks and live music to the space while it was under construction and will continue it moving forward.

  • It took a break during the summer but will be back in full force in September.
People eating at a restaurant.
Cocina Chiwas is the on-site restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Culdesac

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