- Mesa’s director of arts and culture tells us more about the creative community.
- Large businesses are making the move to Mesa.
- Discover what local flavors and produce you can try from Mesa farms.
- There’s plenty of fun activities for the kids to enjoy.
If you’re looking to live close to the capital of Arizona without the hustle and bustle of Phoenix’s downtown core, then Mesa might be the place for you.
Located east of Phoenix and north of Gilbert, Mesa takes its name from the Spanish word for “tabletop” or “tableland.” Mesa is the second-largest city in the Phoenix-Mesa metro and the 37th biggest city in the country. More than 504,000 people call Mesa home, and the population of the southwestern city is expected to surge to 551,155 residents by 2026, forming approximately 133,880 households.
Compared to 150 other cities across the United States, Mesa ranks as the 25th best-run city in the country according to a 2021 study by WalletHub. Mesa beats out neighboring communities like Phoenix and Tucson in addition to major U.S. urban centers such as Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago. When it comes to livability, Mesa scores a 78 out of 100 according to AreaVibes, 82 per cent better than other locations across the country.
So what makes Mesa a desirable place for people to live and work in? From the family-friendly atmosphere to growing work opportunities, there are several reasons why someone may consider Mesa a good place to live.
Mesa home prices are cheaper than neighboring cities
If you’re buying a home in Mesa, you’ll probably save a few dollars more than if you were to buy a property in another city within the Greater Phoenix area.
According to data from Realtor.ca, the median listing home prices for a property in Mesa is $471,000 as of April 2022, which works out to around $279 per square foot. Compared to the same month in 2021, resale home prices have grown 28.2 per cent year-over-year in Mesa. Homes in the city tend to sell for a median sold price of $459,000 after an average 35 days on the market.
Mesa resale home prices are cheaper than properties in other local cities such as Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler and Scottsdale, where median listing home prices go for $475,000, $515,000, $575,000 and $900,000, respectively.
By comparison, you’ll pay a median price of $171 per square foot for a new construction townhouse or single-family detached property in Mesa as per information from BuzzBuzzHome. This is a few dollars less than the same housing types in Phoenix, which typically cost $177 per square foot. All new homes planned, under construction or recently finished in Mesa are low-rise.
“The greatest thing I think in the City of Mesa is the diverse housing,” said Sheryl Willis, a real estate agent with eXp Realty. “You can get everything from [a] retirement community, to family community to high-end luxury, and let me tell you, some of the least-expensive, most gorgeous mountain views you will find throughout the Greater Phoenix [area] is right here in the City of Mesa.”
Here are some low-rise new construction housing options you can find in Mesa:
Location: 10108 East Tesla Avenue
Developer: Toll Brothers
Price range: From $889,995 to $907,995
Size: 2,631 to 2,687 square feet
With 118 home sites to choose from, the Montage Collection is a luxury single-family neighborhood with four- to six-bedroom home layouts. Buyers can pick from a handful of architectural designs with single- or two-storey layouts, from contemporary farmhouse to ranch-style. Residents in this under-construction Toll Brothers community can make use of the site’s fitness center, sand volleyball court, pool and picnic areas.
Location: 9619 East Solina Avenue
Developer: Ashton Woods
Price range: From $515,990 to $779,990
Size: 1,377 to 3,020 square feet
Built by Atlanta-based developer Ashton Woods, Eastmark comprises 11 different floor plans in this single-family community near E Point Twenty-Two Boulevard and Inspirian Parkway. Homes in this development range from 1,377 to 2,668 square feet with three- to six-bedroom layouts. In addition to the community’s walking trails, playground and swimming pool, Eastmark residents will also have access to nearby parks and schools.
Location: 7458 East Osage Avenue
Developer: Richmond American Homes
Price range: From $578,990 to over $663,990
Size: 1,790 to 2,630 square feet
This collection of 37 homes is walking distance to parks, restaurants and nearby schools. Each single-family residence is finished with recessed lighting, chrome bathroom faucets and hardwood cabinetry. Buyers can have their pick from four floor plans in this community, which feature ranch and two-storey layouts with attached two-car garages.
Location: 9641 East Solina Avenue
Developer: David Weekley Homes
Price range: $857,990 to $949,990
Size: 2,247 to 3,320 square feet
Located near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Eastmark Voyage brings 82 single-family homes to East Mesa. This community by David Weekley Homes features seven floor plans to choose from, ranging from 2,247 to 3,320 square feet in size with three- to five-bedroom layouts available. Residents will have access to on-site amenities such as a community center, dog park and pool.
From theater to dance, you’ll find art everywhere in Mesa
If you’re a fan of the arts, Mesa is a hub for all things creative.
Walking around downtown Mesa, you’re likely to spot several public art pieces. The city’s core is home to 38 sculptures and 16 different murals, from Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall at N Macdonald Street and W Pepper Place, to the “What Lifts You,” mural on W Main Street.
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The award-winning Mesa Arts Center (MAC) is the southwest’s largest urban art and entertainment campus, comprising 14 artist studios, five galleries and four theaters across seven acres. Guests can visit the center to take in a performance, experience a visual arts exhibition or take a studio class.
Cindy Ornstein is the director of the Mesa Department of Arts and Culture and the executive director of the Mesa Arts Center. A former New Yorker, Ornstein has been working in the arts industry for over three decades, and has overseen the expansion of Mesa’s arts community for the last 12 years.
Ornstein shared her insights on Mesa and what makes it a good place to live.
Some responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
I am the director of arts and culture for the City of Mesa and the executive director of the Mesa Arts Center (MAC). As arts and culture director, my department includes the Arizona Museum of Natural History (AZMNH), the i.d.e.a. Museum (imagination, design, experience, art) and the Mesa Arts Center. I also serve as a connector and communicator to further the engagement and opportunities with arts, culture and science in our community and region.
I am originally from New York City, but have also lived in Atlanta, Eastern PA and Michigan before moving to Arizona. I’ve been in arts administration for 32 years, and in my current position for 12. I acted and directed in theater when I was younger, studied theater and music, though I ended up with a degree in English from Vassar College and a masters in American culture from the University of Michigan. I come from a family of artists and scientists.
If someone were to come up to you and ask “Is Mesa a good place to live?” what would you tell them? How would you describe Mesa to someone who has never visited the city? Personally, what are some of your favorite things about Mesa?
Mesa is a great place to live! It’s beautiful, surrounded by amazing natural resources, stunning desert and mountain vistas. Mesa has a small urban center, but is the 37th largest U.S. city and has the resources that come with that, including world-class cultural resources, great recreation facilities and good schools.
Mesa is a community with wonderful people and a highly creative group of artists, organizations and cultural supporters. There is a lot of growth in Mesa, including lots of new housing, new businesses moving here and an Arizona State University (ASU) facility opening downtown this year that will house several programs, including ASU’s Sidney Poitier New American Film School.
We are proud to have an innovative museum serving youth and families (i.d.e.a. Museum), the premier natural history museum in the state (AZMNH), and the largest multidisciplinary arts center in the southwest U.S. (MAC). The MAC comprises over 212,000 square feet, four theaters, a contemporary art museum, 14 visual and performing arts studios, two outdoor stages and a robust education and engagement program. There are also many theater companies, dance groups, musical ensembles, teaching organizations, visual artists and art activists in our city.
How do you think visual and performing arts have evolved and grown in Mesa over time? How do you think the Mesa Arts Center has played a role in influencing Mesa’s arts scene?
The visual and performing arts have been important to the Mesa community for a long time, including the first Mesa Arts Center. It was in a former elementary school building in downtown for decades, helping to foster arts activity before the “new” Mesa Arts Center opened in 2005.
There has been a wonderful and evolutionary growth of the arts in Mesa, with increasing recognition over the last dozen years. There is an exciting and innovative creative vibe happening here that is very authentic. In addition, participation in the arts at our cultural facilities has grown over that time, with an obvious dip during COVID, but now coming back strong.
Many people feel that the Mesa Arts Center has been an important contributor to the growth and reputation of Mesa as an arts-rich and arts-supportive city, and I agree. The Mesa Arts Center has created many opportunities to broaden, deepen and engage people from across the region and beyond for all ages and backgrounds, and to give the community ownership in the Center and its programs.
This has included exemplary programs serving older adults, people with dementia and their caregivers, veterans and service members, and youth, as well as extraordinary exhibitions at the free and award-winning Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. We have 60-plus performances of touring artists each year in our Performing Live series (plus many rentals and six Founding Resident Companies in the theaters) and multiple free festivals. All of these programs explore a wide variety of genres, ideas, cultures and artistic forms.
The Mesa Arts Center has also led many exciting special projects, such as a street pianos project, community prototyping projects to enhance engagement in neighborhood design, the Water=Life project using art to explore water conservation, and much more.
If someone were to move to Mesa, what would you want them to know about local arts talent, events and attractions? What would you want them to understand about the city and what it’s like to live and work there?
I’d want them to know that there is something here for everyone’s tastes and needs. In addition to so many varied cultural events and activities in Mesa and in the Greater Phoenix metro area, they can also find wonderful ways to get involved, to volunteer, to participate in a project or to help with a community theater production.
They will love the amazing big sky and incredible sunsets, the access so very close to total wilderness and its truly breathtaking beauty, and all the great recreation that comes with that — kayaking the Salt River, horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. That it’s hot but dry really does make a difference. You can drive two hours north for cold, visit all kinds of mountains, vineyards and cool towns in multiple directions, and enjoy being part of one of the largest metro areas in the country. For foodies, the variety and quality of food is fantastic! Mesa, in particular, has great authentic ethnic food of every variety, and a wonderful Asian District.
What do you think is next for the Mesa arts community? What do you think new and existing residents can get excited about when it comes to the Mesa arts industry?
Mesa’s arts community is growing as more people understand the exciting work that is happening here. I think more creative businesses will come to Mesa in the next few years, and artists will continue to find it a great place to make their home base.
As residential housing increases, which is springing up all over the place, the amenities of the urban center will grow and flourish, much like the burgeoning microbrewery/taproom growth in downtown Mesa over the last few years.
The opening of the ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center — which focuses on film, media production, including new technologies like augmented and virtual reality, entrepreneurship and innovation — will stimulate additional creative activity and is already increasing strong partnerships with ASU and the development of new events and initiatives.
The future is bright and full of stimulating and ground-breaking opportunities for residents, lifelong learners and visitors.
Facebook and other major companies have expanded to Mesa
Living in a smaller city doesn’t mean you have to miss out on opportunities at big-name companies.
National and international businesses from Boeing to Fujifilm have opened up shop in Mesa, employing thousands of local workers. Large tech and manufacturing companies have also made plans to expand their operations into the city.
In the summer of 2022, Canadian electric vehicle manufacturer, ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp., intends to open its 235,000 square-foot U.S. assembly and engineering technical center. The facility, which is designed to assemble an enhanced U.S-built 2023 SOLO model vehicle, will have the ability to produce up to 20,000 cars per year.
In August 2021, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, broke ground on a data center facility in Mesa. Nine months later, the company announced its plans to add three more buildings to the campus, expanding the project to over 2.5 million square feet and growing Meta’s investment in Arizona to over $1 billion. When complete the Meta Mesa data center will support 200 jobs.
Based on 2020 data from Mesa’s Office of Economic Development, the city’s major employers include:
- Banner Health (Mesa-based employees: 8,321)
- Mesa Public Schools (7,994)
- The Boeing Company (4,655)
- City of Mesa (4,135)
- Drivetime Automotive Group Inc (1,401)
- 24-7 Intouch (1,400)
- AT&T (1,311)
- Maricopa County (1,055)
- Dexcom (850)
- Empire Southwest (771)
- Santander Consumer USA (765)
- Maricopa County Community College District (742)
- State of Arizona (670)
- MD Helicopters (650)
Data from the United States Census Bureau shows that Mesa workers earn a slightly higher wage compared to those in Phoenix, with an annual median household income of $61,640 compared to $60,914 in the neighboring city.
The onset of COVID-19 knocked the global economy off of its feet, forcing layoffs and business closures across the country. More than two years later since the onset of the pandemic, economies around the world have been recovering, including Mesa, which appears to be outperforming many other U.S. cities.
According to a WalletHub report, Mesa ranked in sixth place out of 180 when it comes to U.S. cities whose unemployment rates are bouncing back the most from the pandemic. With an unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent as of March 2020, Mesa outperformed cities like San Francisco, Austin and Miami when it came to COVID-19 recovery.
You’ll experience over 300 days of sun
Located in the Sonoran Desert, Mesa is a hot and dry city that has sunny skies the majority of the year.
The City of Mesa experiences 301 days of sunshine annually, reportedly more than San Diego or Miami Beach. On an average day, the city hits about 86°F (30°C), but can reach as high as 104.3°F (40.2°C) in peak summer and drop to as low as 35.6°F (2°C) in the winter. Mesa rarely sees snow or rain, receiving less than 10 inches of precipitation a year.
Covering 138 square miles, Mesa is bordered by the Tonto National Forest and Usery Mountain Regional Park to the east and the Salt River to the north. Mesa has 55 parks, nine public pools and miles of trails that cater to different outdoor activities, whether you want to hike, bike or explore the wilderness on horseback.
“This is really one of the most unique deserts in the world,” said Janiel Green, a travel and culture YouTuber. “This is the only place that the saguaro cactus grows and it can live up to 200 years, and it dots the landscape like giants standing [at] attention to the sun.”
Here’s a few options of how you can spend your time in the Mesa outdoors:
- Set up your tent at the Usery Park Campground.
- Bird watch at the Coon Bluff Recreation Area.
- Horseback ride, kayak and tube at the historic Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch.
- Play a round of miniature golf or a game at the arcade at Golfland Sunsplash.
- Score a hole-in-one at Las Sendas Golf Club, the Arizona Golf Resort & Event Center or one of the many other golf courses in the city.
- Tour the Salt River on board the Desert Belle Tour Boat.
Get a taste of locally grown goods in Mesa
The desert landscape may sound like a surprising location for farming, but Mesa is a popular destination for agritourism. The city is home to a number of farms that provide seasonal produce to the local community, markets and restaurants.
Arizona’s sunny climate is an ideal environment for growing citrus, hence why you’ll find orange and other fruit farms in and around Mesa. From November to January, citrus hits its peak season for harvesting tangerines, blood oranges, grapefruit and lemons. During the late spring and early summer months, it’s time to gather peaches, plums, eggplants and grapes.
The Fresh Foodie Trail is a self-guided tour of the region’s local farms, mills and eateries located within Mesa and surrounding communities. Visitors and residents can spend their time picking produce, chatting with the animals or sampling the home-grown flavors of the homestead. Year-round, the farms host food-oriented events, from Queen Creek Olive Mill’s September garlic festival to the pumpkin and chili party held at Schnepf Farms in October.
Here are some of the top destinations that you can explore along the Fresh Foodie Trail:
- True Garden Urban Farm – (5949 E University Drive, Mesa)
- Superstition Dairy Farm – (3440 S Hawes Road, Mesa)
- Vertuccio Farms – (4011 S. Power Road, Mesa)
- Steadfast Farm at Eastmark – (5111 Inspirian Parkway, Mesa)
- Jalapeño Bucks – (3434 N Val Vista Drive, Mesa)
- Queen Creek Olive Mill – (25062 S Meridian Road, Queen Creek)
- Schnepf Farms – (24810 S Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek)
- Agritopia – (3000 E Ray Road, Gilbert)
- The Windmill Winery – (140 W Butte Avenue, Florence)
On Saturday’s during the summer season, the city hosts the Downtown Mesa Farmers Market at the Mesa Arts Center where visitors can buy from local merchants, food vendors and artists.
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There’s plenty for the kids to see and do
Raising little ones in Mesa may involve many days spent at the park, splash pad or one of the city’s popular attractions.
Compared to 182 cities in the U.S., Mesa ranks in 114th place of the best places to raise a family across the country according to recent data from WalletHub. With a score of 49.52, Mesa comes in 49th place nationally for socio-economics and 96th place for family fun.
As per information from the City of Mesa, there are 23 “A” ranked schools in Mesa and six “A+” School of Excellence laureates. For the bigger kids, the city is the location of several post-secondary institutions, including Mesa Community College, the ASU Polytechnic Campus and the East Valley Institute of Technology.
For families who live or visit Mesa, the city has taken steps to support those who may have special needs.
In November 2019, Mesa became the first Autism certified city in the U.S. by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). The initiative was launched by the region’s marketing organization, Visit Mesa, to encourage businesses to participate in specialized autism training in order to better recognize Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and service the needs of ASD travelers and their families.
If you’re looking to fill evenings and weekends with the kids, here are some exciting attractions you can explore in Mesa:
- Visit the dinosaur displays and art collections at the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
- Participate in interactive and artmaking activities at the i.d.e.a. Museum.
- Bounce around on the trampolines or the obstacle courses in Uptown Jungle Fun Park.
- Tour the aircraft exhibits at the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum.
- Practice your flips and tricks at Desert Trails Park.
- Grab a bite at Organ Stop Pizza, home to the world’s largest Wurlitzer theater organs.
See your favorite baseball teams during Spring Training
Baseball lovers can catch up with their favorite teams in Mesa.
Since the 1950s, Mesa has hosted the Chicago Cubs for the Spring Training baseball season. The team moved to Mesa’s newly-constructed Sloan Park in 2014 where they lead MLB in Spring Training attendance with an average of 14,000 fans per game according to Mesa’s economic development department. Hohokam Stadium is also the destination for The Oakland A’s Spring Training.
In early 2022, Mesa opened Bell Bank Park, a 320-acre sports and entertainment complex for professional, club and recreation teams. The massive project includes dozens of sport courts, a 3,000-seat outdoor stadium, fitness centers, a 17,000 square-foot sports restaurant and more.
Year-round, little ones can take part in their favorite sports thanks to a number of youth programs provided by Mesa’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities Department. Starting for kids as young as kindergarten age, children can participate in soccer, golf, archery, track and field, volleyball and flag football leagues hosted by the City of Mesa.