Chandler's Ocotillo comes of age - East Valley Tribune: News

Chandler's Ocotillo comes of age

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Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 2:30 pm | Updated: 2:25 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Mary Kay Pucci stepped from her car into triple-digit heat but paused to don a green linen blazer that completed her outfit before heading into Stein Mart, a favorite haunt of savvy fashionistas.

A typical Scottsdale scenario?

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It could be, except Pucci, who lived in Scottsdale for 40 years before moving to Chandler seven years ago, was shopping in Las Tiendas Village, at Alma School and Queen Creek roads in the tony Ocotillo area of her new hometown.

Ocotillo, the name of a fast-growing and remarkably adaptable cactus, is a fitting moniker for a south Chandler hot spot that has spawned high-tech, high-salaried businesses, high-priced homes for the people who work in those businesses and posh golf courses, lakes and shopping destinations where those residents can spend their cash.

Where is Ocotillo?

It depends on who you ask.

The Ocotillo master-planned community is about 1,900 acres of residential, office and retail property stretching in a meandering free-form pattern from Queen Creek Road south to Chandler Heights Road and from the Gila River Indian Community border east to Arizona Avenue.

The business bunch refers to the Ocotillo area as the Price Road Corridor, a column of super high-tech businesses such as Motorola, Intel and Orbital Sciences that stretches from Knox Road to Chandler Heights Road along both sides of the Loop 101 and Price Road alignment, plus the surrounding residential communities.

Chandler Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Bustamante said he couldn't define exact boundaries for Ocotillo since, "It's still developing, still evolving," but he said the area is critical in shaping Chandler's future by making the city more diverse for businesses and residents.

"It's created an identity for itself. It's unique, a new destination," Bustamante said.

The demographics are key to the popularity of the place.

The average household income for the posh area is $92,215, according to studies commissioned by the City of Chandler. That compares with a citywide median household income of $71,287, Scottsdale's $68,189 median income and Gilbert's median of $86,380.

The prestigious area did not develop by accident. And if you are wondering which came first - the high-salaried businesses or the high-priced residences to house those workers, the answer is neither of those, said Lori Quan, Chandler economic development specialist.

It was the "ultra-pure nitrogen line" and the "high-capacity water and sewer lines," Quan said.

Those unseen and underground pieces of pricey infrastructure that would make any non-techie yawn with don't-know-what-it-is-but-don't-care-either boredom, are super exciting to the high-tech companies that need such stuff to make their products, she said.

In the late 1980s, Chandler pegged its then-mostly barren southern landscape to become its economic development star - a haven for high-tech companies and a high-salaried workforce, Quan said.

The company built the infrastructure, and heavily marketed its offerings. And the companies came.

The lush landscaping, the upscale residential communities and the other amenities were planned as part of the package, Quan said.

"Highly educated, high-skilled workers have lifestyle expectations, for shopping, dining, diversity of housing," she said.

The always well-researched retailers followed the spending power, filling shopping centers with a plethora of upscale options.

Las Tiendas, which several years ago was pegged to get a Wal-Mart, instead has a Sprouts Farmer's Market - a more Scottsdale-like option. My Sister's Closet, a designer clothing consignment boutique that has long enticed shoppers and tourists to its prime location at Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road, has set up shop near Sprouts. Stein Mart is just steps away from both.

Wendy Saadi lived in Scottsdale for eight years before moving to the Ocotillo area.

"We like it better here," she said. It has mostly the same salons, spa services, stores - minus Neiman Marcus - and amenities as Scottsdale, she said, but there's a different attitude about the place.

Saadi said she and her husband are "both in IT (Information Technology)" and her neighborhood provides everything they and their young family need to live, work and play in comfort. And if Ocotillo doesn't have the prestige associated with Scottsdale, that's OK.

"If you want a good massage or a good haircut, it's the same stuff, just as good, just not as showy," Saadi said. "The difference is between people who have money and want to look like it, and people who have money and don't care about that."

But Ocotillo doesn't have everything - yet.

Melissa Treat said she prefers the shops in her Ocotillo neighborhood to Scottsdale's offerings and likes the local dining options, but she admits a big night on the town is an occasional draw for her to venture north.

"Chandler still hasn't gotten to where people talk about it, so some of my friends still go to Scottsdale to shop. People need to realize (the stores) are pretty much the same as in Scottsdale," she said. "But I still like the live bands and club scene (in Scottsdale). It would be nice to have that here."

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