Longform

Sunnyslopetopia

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"It's like with South Phoenix," Stanton says. "By the time the architects and designers started moving in, the rest of us couldn't afford to [buy a house] there anymore."

Artists are apparently flocking to Sunnyslope in droves, as well. "It's beautiful here, and artists tend to gravitate toward an inspiring view," according to Cody Carpenter, who closed on a house there just last week. Carpenter works in concrete and metal and is designing and building much of the interior detail work in Bomberos. "Let's face it, most artists can't afford to live in the other mountain preserves, and the people there would be too judgmental for most artists, anyway. Here, you can do whatever you want to the outside of your house and your neighbors aren't going to freak out."

Erin Dover, a bronze sculptor says artists may be moving there because "there's a very different vibe here, and we're tucked away, on and around a quiet mountain."

For Nina and Ray Estes, young marrieds who've just moved here from Santa Clara, California, that arts-friendly vibe cinched their decision. "We didn't really know we were in Sunnyslope," Nina says, laughing. "We thought we were in Phoenix. We had it narrowed down to Phoenix and Seattle, and then we found this part of town and we were, like, 'This is it.'"

It was only a matter of time before someone — in this case, Mike Nielsen — starting cooking up Sunnyslope's answer to downtown Phoenix's First Fridays. "I want to call ours Second Saturdays," Nielsen says. "We don't have a lot of art galleries up here, but we have a lot of public space over by the canal, and a lot of parking lots. Merchants could offer their lots to independent artists to set up in for that one night, and we'll really have our own arts scene."

Until Second Saturdays get going, Nina, a painter, and Ray, a metal worker who hopes to open a wind-chime shop in the neighborhood, have plenty to keep them busy in their new neighborhood. They love Via de Losantos, an unpretentiously kitschy ma-and-pa Mexican restaurant on Central Avenue whose bar is crowded with young scene-makers who dig the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and the framed photos of Rose Mofford on the walls. They grab their morning brew each day at Grinder's Coffee Company, and they can't step into Corbin's for dinner without running into three people they know.

"I kind of don't want to say too many good things about Sunnyslope," Ray says. "I don't want it to be overrun with boring people."


Ray needn't take up the "Sunnyslope is here!" cheer because there are already hundreds of men and women to do it for him. There must be something in the water in Sunnyslope. How else to explain all these otherwise reasonable adults hollering with joy about a neighborhood that's been struggling to get it together for 100 years? Why else would normally grumpy school principals refer to their community as "a magical place" and councilmen say things like "I was afraid when I moved districts that I would lose Sunnyslope"?

Jim Mapstead, who's chaired the Quarterly Sunnyslope Business Coalition meeting since its inception, likes to talk about how, mere days after breaking ground on the new Sunnyslope police station, the city ran the Hell's Angels out of the neighborhood by buying up the bikers' local clubhouse. Corbin's owner Kevin McNeill is looking forward to using the just-launched Phoenix Neighborhood Circulator route, a free shuttle service that's Sunnyslope's answer to the light rail. Former Sunnyslope High principal John Croteau, who's affectionately known as "the king of the neighborhood," boasts that his school, long ranked as one of Arizona's "excelling schools," made the list of Newsweek's top 1,300 schools this year. "It's Viking pride!" he says, referring to the school's mascot without a trace of irony. And neighborhood crime, according to published reports from the Phoenix Police Department, is down nearly 30 percent from this time last year.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela