Verrado raises the question: Would you trade an urban community for a suburban farce?

I made some new friends the other day, and they live in Verrado. I'd always wanted to know someone who owned a home in this peculiar development — way the hell out in Buckeye, where each house is a replica of an old home — so I would have an excuse to return there from time to time. I couldn't wait to see inside the home of my new pals, Dan and Rebecca ("Call me Becky!"), and to hear what they had to say about why they'd sought out a house that looked old but wasn't. I assumed that they, like me, were big fans of old architecture but couldn't afford a place in Encanto or Palmcroft. Maybe they'd heard about the close watch that the folks at Historic Preservation keep on Phoenix's few remaining old neighborhoods, and didn't want someone breathing down their necks about how they landscaped their yard.

Apparently not. Apparently, it was the double sinks in the master bath.

"We used to always be bumping into one another when we got ready for work in the morning," Rebecca explained, pointing proudly to her new twin sinks. "Not anymore!"

Verrado: Like a TV-movie version of a downtown historic neighborhood.
courtesy of Verrado
Verrado: Like a TV-movie version of a downtown historic neighborhood.
courtesy of Verrado

They couldn't wait to show me their sinks. I'd just arrived, and Rebecca had served some refreshments, and now I was standing there, drinking iced tea in someone's bathroom at 10 in the morning and thinking, "Really? This is why you're here?"

I figured people moved to Verrado because they wanted to live in a make-believe, midcentury, Midwestern small town, which Verrado is an eerily accurate portrayal of. The brainchild of Taliesin West graduate JT Elbracht, Verrado is a planned community with its very own tree-lined Main Street. Built by DMB Associates Inc., the real estate and development firm behind planned communities such as DC Ranch and Superstition Springs, Verrado is snuggled up against the eastern slope of the White Tank Mountains, a half-hour drive on the I-10 from downtown. It's a development that looks like what I imagine a TV-movie version of one of Phoenix's downtown historic neighborhoods might look like: Cleaner, with wider streets and no homeless people.

"Verrado was built as an antidote to those planned communities where all the houses look the same," Nick Quan told me. Nick is the press flack for Verrado, although he doesn't live there. "We're here to give homeowners the ability to live a more community-oriented lifestyle in a development that offers some architectural variety."

But not too much variety. Although Verrado offers a whopping 11 different home designs, there are the usual covenants, conditions, and restrictions, and strict architectural guidelines. You can bring in your own architect to design and build your '40s dream house, but not, for example, a Biosphere-inspired dome home. "We want some cohesiveness here," Nick explained. "Nothing modern."

Nick told me that a lot of people criticize Verrado for looking "planned." "But if you lived in Encanto," he said, "that's a planned neighborhood, too."

Actually, it isn't. The historic neighborhood to which Nick refers is one made up almost entirely of custom homes. I wanted to say as much to JT Elbracht when I spoke to him on the phone, but he was reportedly afraid to talk to a New Times reporter because our newspaper is so "controversial," whatever that means.

Like a lot of planned communities, Verrado has its own golf course and businesses, like the Verrado Grille, that bear its name. What it doesn't have is what I expected to find there: a lot of people who are there because there was no more 1920s-style housing left downtown. When I told the owner of the Arts and Crafts bungalow across the street from Rebecca's that her house is a dead ringer for one of my favorites in the downtown Willo Historic District, she asked, "What's a bungalow?"

"We just love the look of old houses," Rebecca told me as we settled into big, faux-suede Barcaloungers in her living room. Dan had gone off to his office, where he designs ads for the Yellow Pages.

"So do I," I replied. "I have a Craftsman, too."

Rebecca thought about this for a moment before replying, "You mean, a table saw?"

And then we stared at one another for what seemed like a very long time.

It turns out that Dan and Rebecca moved to Verrado because they like the way old houses look — Dan grew up in a Transitional Ranch house in a suburb of Los Angeles — but they didn't like where the old houses in Phoenix are situated. "We want to have kids one day," Call-Me-Becky confided, "and we want to raise them in a safe environment."

A safe environment. Unlike downtown Phoenix, where the old houses are dangerously close to all those messy transients. Where the old houses are actually old, as in other people — dead people! — used to live in them. Where you live in a neighborhood that's part of time's continuum, rather than on a street that replicates it. I thought about saying, to my new friend Rebecca, that if I'd been the developer of Verrado, I'd have built it in El Mirage, rather than Buckeye, because that's what this place is — a mirage.

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4 comments
VerradoAmy
VerradoAmy

I used to live in an historic district in Phoenix, Del Norte. Now I live in Verrado and I love it. There is nothing fake about the community here. I know my neighbors and I can count on them and have counted on them for support and help when I have needed it. I loved Del Norte when I lived there but it is certainly not were I want to raise a family. Oh and I love my front porch on my Craftsman style home which overlooks the park where my son plays.

Justin
Justin

Wow, what a jerk. Is this what you call journalism? Thanks for wasting the last 5min of my life. What did I learn here? The author has a giant chip on his shoulder and that he likes to play gotcha journalism. It does'nt suprise me you have no idea why the NT has the rep that it does.

StevieWhy
StevieWhy

Worst piece of journalism I have read, maybe ever. If you had actually gotten off your azz, stopped sipping your iced tea and actually done some reporting you may have found much more about Verrado. Yes the "New Urbanism" is really the "New Suburbanism" but at least admit that the planning and development of Verrado are a much better step in the right direction than 99% of the developments around the valley. Unlike most developments, there was thought put into the planning and the result is homes, streets, parks and outdoor spaces that are very livable and enjoyable. Most of us like the traditional neighborhood planning without the lead pipes, lead paint, asbestos, and outdated everything that goes along with "This Old House". Verrado is a very nice community. We enjoy living here. Yes it has its problems - which on the contrary actually makes it a "real place". Please do some real homework next time before making flippant observations and comments about what you clearly have no understanding.

ABC
ABC

So you visited one house occupied by a seemingly airhead-type female and decide that Verrado is a pitiful excuse for a planed community? Gimme a break.Do I live there? NOWould I live there? NOBut I have visited there and think it's a neat idea. WHO CARES why people move there. Why people move anywhere can be for a variety of reasons. Go to each house. Knock on every door. You're going to hear a bunch of different reasons for why people chose to move to Verrado.For some, it was affordability. More house for less money (than if they chose elsewhere in the valley).For some, it was location - they want to be on the outskirts of town. Perhaps they want to be in a (seemingly) safer part of the valley (though anyone who pays attention to the news knows that plenty of dead bodies pop up in that area of Buckeye all the time and there are lovely at-home hookers advertising on craigslist, etc....yes, sad but true Verrado is not the safe haven that some would like to think).For some they liked the small town feel.Who frickin' cares? We can't all embrace old homes and homeless people walking down the sidewalks and peeling paint. Just because some people like "vanilla" doesn't make those people less worthy.

 
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