As one of the fastest-growing urban centers in America, Phoenix has become the destination of choice for many homebuyers and renters over the last decade.
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States and is quickly expanding in size. Between 2010 and 2020, the population of Arizona’s capital city grew 11.2 percent, jumping from 1.4 million to 1.6 million people according to the Census Bureau. From July 2020 to July 2021, Phoenix reported the largest numeric change in its population compared to other U.S. cities with 50,000 people or more, adding 13,224 new residents over the course of a year.
The arrival of tech companies with job opportunities, immigration and people relocating to Arizona from more expensive states are some of the reasons as to why Phoenix’s population has rapidly expanded over the past decade.
- We asked the mayor to make the case for Phoenix.
- The current state of the Phoenix real estate market
- The city tends to be less expensive than other similarly sized cities.
- There are plenty of family-focused activities.
- Big-name employers anchor the economy.
- The food is as good as you’ll get
- There are luxury rentals while you look for a new home
“Let’s face it, Phoenix was a city that never should have been,” said Christine Mackay, Phoenix’s Community and Economic Development director, in an interview with ABC15 Arizona. “It was a phoenix that rose out of the desert and it rose because of innovative, creative, knowledgeable people that figured out a way in which you could live really well in the middle of a desert.”
With so many people migrating to the Valley of the Sun, it must be a great place to live, right? From the unique outdoors to the city’s vibrant food scene, there are many reasons why homeowners are packing up and making the move to Phoenix.
This story is part of a series on enticing Arizona cities in which to buy a new home.
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- Why you should move to Scottsdale, according to the locals
- Unexpected Arizona house plans you’ll love
- New homes in Phoenix under $400k
Phoenix is a “very welcoming environment for new families”
If you’ve never been to Phoenix before, you might struggle to gauge its vibe, or whether it’s a good place to live or not. Who better to ask than the person in charge of the city?
According to Mayor Kate Gallego, Phoenix has seen a boost in its population thanks to its family-friendly environment and amenities. While outsiders might be quick to think of the city as a hub for seniors, Phoenix is growing quickly and is an appealing city for families.
We asked Mayor Gallego on what makes Phoenix a good place to live and what it can offer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. As the mayor of Phoenix, what do you personally like about living and working in this city? What are your favorite things about Phoenix, from the neighborhoods to major attractions?
In politics, there is often a temptation to focus on the short-term. My focus is to think longer term and plan for the type of city we want to leave our kids. I have worked for a more diverse economy with more high-paying jobs in areas like healthcare and semiconductor manufacturing.
I value what’s important to the people of Phoenix: public safety, jobs, education, transportation and transformational economic development. We’re bringing jobs of the future to Phoenix, and working hard to ensure we have the right educational resources to fill the job pipeline with the strongest candidates.
Favorite things: We have one of the largest municipal parks in North America, with its abundant hiking trails accessible within a few minutes’ drive from downtown Phoenix. We are also home to one of the nation’s best restaurants, Cocina Madrigal. I’m looking forward to next year’s Super Bowl as visitors arrive to experience the fan experiences downtown and see the vibrant transformation of our welcoming community.
If someone were to come up to you and ask “Is Phoenix a good place to live?” what would you tell them? What specific factors would you say make Phoenix a desirable city to someone?
Phoenix has a very welcoming environment for new families, part of the reason the city added more population over the past decade than any other large U.S. city. The quality of life here is exceptional, with sunny weather, extraordinary scenery, dozens of opportunities for outdoor activities and vibrant nightlife. That, combined with smart, equitable policies and a welcoming business environment, delivers a city life in which workers can obtain high-quality jobs and families can thrive.
If someone were to move to Phoenix, what would you want them to understand about the city beforehand? How would you describe Phoenix to someone who has never visited the city or is trying to learn about Phoenix from another place?
Those who haven’t visited Phoenix still tend to think of it as a vast retirement community. While we definitely value the wisdom of our elders, we also know that Phoenix is a young community that’s growing fast. We are creating opportunity at a quick pace, bringing the jobs of the future here, along with the right educational resources to ensure our residents have the training and knowledge they need to make the most of those jobs.
Arizona is a fast-growing state in terms of population. Whether you are an empty nester or a young professional thinking about starting a family, what does the City of Phoenix offer different generations who might be thinking about living there?
Phoenix is a great place for kids – from our local parks, to amenities like the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. For working families of all ages, we have an amazing business ecosystem that is attracting startups and legacy companies alike. It’s easy to get around in Phoenix – in addition to our light rail and bus transit systems, the U.S. Census reports Phoenix has the shortest average commute time of any major city. We are diverse, with new families arriving almost daily from southern California, Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, as well as Asia.
What are some of the biggest changes coming to Phoenix? If someone were to make the move there, what can they look forward to down the road?
My work on infrastructure and climate lays an important foundation for the future of Phoenix. I have shared with global leaders and policy makers the aggressive approach Phoenix is taking on a circular economy, clean light rail construction, electric vehicle manufacturing, and these approaches will grow good paying, green jobs.
Waymo recently launched its autonomous electric vehicle rideshare in downtown Phoenix, testing with its employees now. We also expect to be first in the nation to integrate autonomous rideshare at an international airport.
We are global leaders in heat mitigation. Our innovative cool pavement program has paved nearly 45 miles with a special reflective coating (the largest application in the U.S.), which is delivering a reduction of 10 to 12 degrees in overnight road surface temperatures.
The current state of Phoenix real estate
“Those involved in the Greater Phoenix housing market are beginning to feel the fury of years of rapidly rising home prices and now rapidly rising mortgage interest rates. The latest Zonda data shows the average new-home base price sits at $697,135, which is 44% higher than two years ago. From year-end 2021 to today, the double whammy of rising home prices and rising mortgage interest rates results in an estimated monthly mortgage payment increase of 52%.
It is well documented that Phoenix area housing prices were rising at a pace well above the national average. It can be seen in the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index—until the most recent reading for March, home price growth in greater Phoenix led the index for nearly three consecutive years. Yes, almost 36 consecutive months. Logic says this cannot go on forever.
Today we know several indicators to help us understand what could be ahead. Resale listings are rising quickly, presumably related to investors looking to take their equity and put it elsewhere, households hoping to sell “at the top,” households with enough equity to downsize without the need for a mortgage, and, of course, the typical lifestyle reasons. Listings price cuts are occurring, likely due to an underestimation of how quickly affordability has eroded. Pricing a home based on March conditions stands little chance in today’s conditions. New-home demand is falling quickly as consumer confidence is starting to see fractures. Buyer traffic levels are down noticeably with modest incentives becoming more common. Isolated instances of new-home price cuts exist today, but it is not widespread.
Phoenix was often seen as a market that had all the fundamentals to prevent a housing slowdown, including positive domestic net migration, a lack of housing inventory, and a diversifying economy. We believe these factors support longer-term housing demand in the market, but the quick affordability shock is shaking consumer confidence and ability to pay.
That shock has showed up in recent conversations with industry participants about what is happening to the housing market in Phoenix. Collectively, these conversations suggest a home value correction could be in store. The extent of a possible correction is less certain. But, again, logic says what has occurred over the past two-and-a-half years is unsustainable.
A slowdown and possible correction could be exactly what the local industry needs, albeit the process may be painful. Home builder backlogs are still extended and will likely remain so through the end of the year. Capacity was not keeping up with demand, which resulted in drastic changes in a short period of time. A correction can provide some breathing room for a market that was operating faster than production capacity allowed. As those of us at Zonda look to the future, we acknowledge and are comforted by the longer-term economic and demographic tailwinds.”
Steven Hensley is an advisory manager for Zonda and an Arizona housing market expert. In his role, Steven provides consulting services and market analysis across various residential real estate uses including single-family, multifamily, master-planned, and build-to-rent developments. Steven also writes advisory publications on the Arizona new-home market.
– Zonda advisory manager Steven Hensley via Builder Online
Phoenix real estate is cheaper than some other large cities
When compared to other major cities in the United States, your dollars tend to stretch farther in Phoenix.
The majority of Phoenix residents own a home — data from NerdWallet shows that the Arizona city has a 58.5 percent homeownership rate, a greater percentage than cities like Philadelphia (54.9 percent), San Diego (49.2 percent) and Dallas (45.2 percent).
According to data from the National Association of REALTORS, the median price for a home in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area is $474,500 as of Q1-2022, significantly cheaper than New York-Newark-Jersey City ($578,100), Washington-Arlington-Alexandria ($553,000) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale ($792,500). For comparison, Phoenix is slightly more expensive than Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land ($330,800) and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin ($325,400), which are two of the top-five most populated cities in the U.S.
For current Phoenix homeowners, the price of real estate has also continued to rise. Although sales dropped 8.4 percent between March and April, the latest statistics from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) show that home prices in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area are up 19.9 percent year-over-year.
In new construction, you’ll pay a median average of $177 per square foot for a Phoenix house or townhome according to BuzzBuzzHome, a discount from the same housing types in Seattle ($488 per square foot), Austin ($185 per square foot) and Atlanta ($239 per square foot).
For around the same median resale price of $474,500, here’s the kind of new construction homes you can buy in Phoenix.
Plan Barletta at McClellan Ranch
Rendering: McClellan Ranch by Pulte Homes via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 6741 West Desert Lane
Size: Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, from 1,993 square feet
Developer: Pulte Homes
Price: From $478,990
Located on the west side of Loop 202, Pulte Home’s McClellan Ranch lends views of the Sierra Estrella Mountains and access to a variety of on-site amenities including walking trails, sport courts and covered seating areas. The Barletta plan in this collection delivers nine-foot ceilings, a gathering room and stainless steel Whirlpool kitchen appliances.
Rendering: Tierra Montana Discovery Collection by Taylor Morrison via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 11608 South 53rd Avenue
Size: Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, from 1,760 square feet
Developer: Taylor Morrison
Price: From $478,990
The Tierra Montana Discovery Collection in Phoenix’s Laveen Meadows neighborhood is currently under construction and will deliver 190 new residences with nine different layouts once complete. Buyers of the Lily floor plan can choose from three exterior design options — Spanish, Tucson and Prairie — to pair with two to four bedrooms and a multi-car garage across an easy one-floor layout.
Plan Ashley at Legacy at Hudson
Rendering: Legacy at Hudson by Ashton Woods via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 5536 West Alta Mesa Avenue
Size: Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, from 1,779 square feet
Developer: Ashton Woods
Price: From $465,990
Created by Ashton Woods, the Ashley floor plan at Legacy at Hudson features more than 1,770 square feet of living space across a single-storey layout. This three- to four-bedroom home comes finished with a private office space, a large kitchen with a center island and an attached two-car garage for convenient parking.
Rendering: McClellan Ranch – Reserve Series by Meritage Homes via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 6843 West Samantha Way
Size: Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, from 1,844 square feet
Developer: Meritage Homes
Price: From $475,990
This gated community in Laveen Commons is a few minutes drive from Loop 202, local schools and the southwestern tip of South Mountain Park and Preserve. Future residents will have access to outdoor amenities like a dog park, picnic tables, trails and playgrounds for the little ones.
Expect warmer temperatures and many outdoor activities
Arizona’s 300-plus days of sunny weather has long made it a popular place to live for snowbirds. Those heading south for the winter often find themselves in cities like Phoenix, which offers summer-like weather year round.
During the peak summer months, temperatures in Phoenix can range between 82°F (28°C) and 105°F (40°C), and fall back to more tolerable temperatures varying from 47°F (8°C) to 68°F (20°C) during the winter. The sun is out in Phoenix during 85 percent of its daylight hours.
“I think honestly the whole ‘cook an egg on the street,’ type [of] thing is true,” said Jackson Wilkey, a real estate agent with eXp Realty. “It can get that hot, but I was pleasantly surprised that in the seven to eight months that are not dead of summer, they’re actually very favorable.”
- Kayak, tube or paddleboard down the Lower Salt River
- Take a picnic to the 222-acre Encanto Park
- Practice your swing at one the many golf courses, from Papago Golf Club to Raven Golf Club
- Explore the trails at Phoenix Mountains Preserve or the South Mountain Park and Preserve, one of the largest municipal parks in North America
- Explore the koi ponds and waterfalls at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
- Make a splash in one of the city’s public pools
You’ll find plenty of family-friendly activities
With its plethora of suburban homes and family-friendly facilities, Phoenix ranks better than most U.S. cities when it comes to raising children.
After comparing 182 U.S. cities on 46 key family metrics, a new report by WalletHub ranked Phoenix as 103 on the list with a total score of 50.04. Phoenix came in eighth place overall in the survey’s Family Fun category and 95th place on socioeconomic status.
Phoenix is home to 325 public schools across 30 school districts in addition to 200 charter and private schools. For the older kids, the city is also the destination for several private and public post-secondary institutions, including the downtown campus for Arizona State University, the University of Phoenix and Phoenix College.
If you’re looking for things to do on the weekend or after school with the kids, Phoenix offers a number of family-friendly museums, amenities and entertainment options to try.
- Meet native and exotic wildlife at the Phoenix Zoo
- Play with LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona’s building blocks
- Tour the exhibits at the Arizona Science Center
- Spend time in rainforest amongst the butterflies in Butterfly Wonderland
- Explore the Children’s Museum of Phoenix’s many interactive and imagination-focused exhibits for children as young as zero years old
- Discover more than 15,000 musical instruments from 200 countries in the Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix is attracting big-name employers
COVID-19 dealt a blow to economies across the world as pandemic restrictions forced event cancellations, store closures and limited business hours. Thankfully, the state of Arizona is mostly back to its pre-pandemic self, good news for Phoenix job-seekers and potential residents.
In April 2022, Arizona reported one of the lowest jobless rates nationwide, reaching 3.2 percent that month according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to Moody’s Analytics and CNN’s Back-to-Normal Index, Arizona’s economy is operating at 97 percent of where it was in March 2020, ranking in 17th place nationally.
Over the past decade, Phoenix’s regional economy has added 441,000 jobs according to the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation’s 2021 State of the Workforce report. The majority of employment growth has been recorded in the transportation, warehousing and utility industry, which expanded 88.2 percent between 2011 and 2021. The city’s scientific and technical services, in addition to financial and insurance industries, also grew across the same 10-year timeline, increasing 48.1 percent and 45.1 percent.
Several big-name companies in the technology and data industries have made plans to expand operations into Phoenix. In May 2021, LiveRamp announced its intention to open a new office in Phoenix, as did Zero Electric Vehicles and PennyMac Financial Services.
“Phoenix has long been on our radar as a vibrant area with a wellspring of talent, plus a great place to live and work,” said Scott Howe, LiveRamp’s CEO, in a press release. “A new office here unlocks more employment opportunities and a scalable path to growth in close proximity to our San Francisco headquarters.”
- State of Arizona
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
- Banner Health
- City of Phoenix
- Wells Fargo
- Bank of America
- Maricopa County
- Arizona State University
Sample the flavors of Yelp’s #1 restaurant in Phoenix
Whether it’s date night or an evening out with friends, Phoenix provides a variety of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues to try out.
From steakhouses to American cuisine, Phoenix’s array of restaurants have been known to catch the attention of major food television networks, awards and reviewers across the country. For instance, Cocina Madrigal, a family-owned Mexican restaurant on S 16th Street, ranked as the number one restaurant nationwide on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2022.Here are some other well-known Phoenix restaurants that you may want to visit:
- Binkley’s Restaurant – 2320 E Osborn Road
- The Original Carolina’s Mexican Food – 1202 E Mohave Street
- Welcome Diner – 929 E Pierce Street
- CIBO – 603 N 5th Avenue
- Little Miss BBQ-University – 4301 E University Drive
- Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion – 2501 E Telawa Trail
- Barrio Cafe – 2814 N 16th Street #1205
- Durant’s – 2611 N Central Avenue
- OAK on Camelback – 111 E Camelback Road
- Bacanora PHX – 1301 Grand Avenue Unit 1
- The Churchill – 901 N 1st Street
- Pizzeria Bianco – 623 E Adams Street
- Mrs White’s Golden Rule Cafe – 808 E Jefferson Street
If you’re looking for insights on the food in Phoenix, the best perspective comes from the folks who are a part of the local culinary and beverage industry.
Why Greenwood Brewing thinks Phoenix is a good place to live
Megan Greenwood is the founder of Greenwood Brewing, a woman-owned brewing company that focuses on the ethos of the “purposeful pint,” and making approachable craft beer that allows women to feel welcome in the industry.
Greenwood’s love of brewing started after she received a homebrew kit for her birthday, prompting her to open a microbrewery in her garage with eight beers on tap. Despite her own home brewing experience, Greenwood couldn’t find a product or a brand that really resonated with her as a woman drinking beer. After some research thanks to her professional background in engineering, Greenwood found that over 85 percent of women who drank beer felt underrepresented in the beer industry. Greenwood used this opportunity to create beverages that are enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.
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Greenwood officially opened Greenwood Brewing’s downtown Phoenix location in July 2020. Greenwood Brewing products can be found in over 200 restaurants and bars, and in grocery stores across Arizona.
Greenwood shared her thoughts on Greenwood Brewing and on Phoenix’s eclectic food community.
Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Tell us a little about Greenwood Brewing and its brand.
Really our goal is to help women feel welcome in this industry and make sure that we’re thinking about all of the things she wants in a beverage while we’re making it, which is different from men.
When I was starting the business, I found that there were less than three percent of breweries that were owned by women only, and only 20 percent of breweries were owned by men and women and a lot of times, that was a husband and wife. Over 78 percent of breweries are owned by men only, which really made sense to me as to why I was not feeling like a brand was thinking about me because when you’re creating a product, you tend to think about yourself as the consumer. The overwhelming majority of brands were built and founded by men, henceforth their product is also thinking about men, and that’s great, we just want to have more women representation.
Our goal is to really understand what it’s like [for women]. For example, if their beer gets warm, [women] won’t finish the beer and they’ll leave the last drink or the last few drinks in their glass, whereas men are not the same way. And so, we’re really thinking about the size of glass that we even serve our beer in because a lot of times it’s too much beverage for a woman to finish before it gets warm. We want to make sure that she finishes it, and then has another beer and finishes that one, so that we’re not giving her something that she doesn’t need or want.
There are things like that all the time that we’re discovering that are differences and we want to make sure to build our brand thinking about all of them and thinking about everybody.
If someone were to ask you “Is Phoenix a good place to live? What should I know about this city?” what would you tell them?
I would say that Arizona, Phoenix especially, is so friendly. Everybody who is here is looking for a place to enjoy life.
We have great weather 350 days out of the year to be active and to explore. You meet a lot of people that way because a lot of people here are friendly and happy and are choosing to live in this city. Most of the people here are not from Arizona, so I think a lot of people are in the same boat too where they’re meeting new people and trying to create a place for themselves.
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How would you describe Phoenix?
I don’t think people realize how active of a city it is. There’s so much going on. You can pretty much find anything you’re looking for, whether that be if you’re into sports, there’s every single professional sports team here. If you’re into music or the arts, especially in downtown Phoenix specifically, Phoenix has multiple theaters, the ballet, the symphony. If you like to skydive, it’s one of the best places to do it in the country. Extreme sports are also around the city, or if you wanted to travel and be in the cold weather, you’re two hours away from it, just up north in Flagstaff. I feel like that’s how I would describe it as whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, and with the benefit that the people are going to be friendly when they’re showing you the way.
Ultimately, when you’re moving or visiting a new city, you want to be around kind people and that’s something that’s absolutely natural here. You can go and sit at a bar, even at our bar, and our staff are going to sit and have a conversation with you and get to know where you’re from and how long you’re in town. That’s not every place. I love that about our city. Everybody is friendly and genuinely interested in meeting new people.
When it comes to local entertainment or neighborhoods, what spots in Phoenix should you check out?
Selfishly, I’d say downtown Phoenix — you should definitely check it out. It’s this growing arts district of Phoenix and it’s such an entertaining area where you can just walk the streets and be entertained. I think that’s something that’s really growing and a really cool aspect of our city that I love.
If I’m going to go out, I would recommend that you book a show in downtown Phoenix and then before the show, have a pre-show beer at Greenwood Brewing, of course, and then after the show I would go to Hanny’s and have a good charcuterie board and pizza with a bottle of wine or champagne. I think that is a fun date night. My husband and I do that all of the time. Downtown is walkable. You can walk to all of those places. It’s a lively area to be exploring.
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What types of flavors and cuisines exist in Phoenix?
I think one of the coolest parts about Phoenix is that we get all of the best pieces of other cities that come with their people.
We have some great New York-style bagel places or there’s Chicago deep dish-style Lou Malnati’s pizza out in Camelback. I think they bring in their own water or they’ve dialed in the chemistry to revise their water profile to be like Chicago’s water. We have renowned chefs. We have a lot of James Beard recipients and nominees that work in Phoenix and have restaurants in Phoenix. About a stone’s throw away from Greenwood Brewing is Pizzeria Bianco which is a Chris Bianco concept and it is incredible.
It’s a foodie city, and people don’t realize that. You could go to a new restaurant every day of the year for probably three years and never go to the same place twice. There’s so much variety, and a lot of it comes from the fact that the majority of people who live here are not from here and they bring their own cuisine and they bring their own culture. That’s something that’s just one more great and unique thing about this city is just embracing everybody else’s culture.
Rent in luxury while you prepare to buy
While waiting for your new home to be built, check out some of Phoenix’s luxury home rental options. You’ll soon discover you’re in one of the top cities in America for options in this market. According to StorageCafe, most new apartment builds in Phoenix suburbs have been high-end over the past decade.
About 20,000 luxury apartment suites were built in the Phoenix area between 2012 to 2021, versus only 4,000 non-luxury suites during the same period.
Renters are seeking the benefits of a hotel-like experience from home, and developers are speeding to meet that need. Prototypical amenities in these residences might include:
- Resort-style pools.
- Tennis courts.
- Putting greens.
- Yoga spaces.
- Peloton training rooms.
- Pet spas with washing stations.
- Business lounges for work-from-home variety.
- Electric vehicle charging stations.
Several Phoenix suburbs rate in the top five for the 20 best places to find luxury rental dwellings in the United States.
Gilbert had the most luxury apartments built in the entire country between 2012 and 2021, according to StorageCafe analysis of the U.S. census bureau. More than 4,000 units became available in the last decade, offering premium amenities. The city’s population experienced a significant boom, from around 210,000 in 2012 to approximately 250,000 residents today.
Many companies setting up shop in the suburb have driven the desire to move to Gilbert. Companies such as Go Daddy Software, Banner Health, and Deloitte are just some of the major employers in the city. In addition, the local unemployment rate stands at only 2.1 percent.
The apartment market has responded in kind to this influx of new residents. The new Gilbert apartment communities feature many hotel-style amenities, from spas and swimming pools to clubhouses, business centers, gardens, and playgrounds. In addition to aesthetically pleasing common areas, like the lounges and lobbies, they also provide more living space. In Gilbert’s case, apartments under the “luxury” label have an average size of over 1,000 square feet, about 250 square feet bigger than those in the non-luxury category.
The other two Phoenix suburbs in the Top 5 are Chandler and Scottsdale. Chandler ranked second in data, while Scottdale secured fourth place. Ninety-nine percent and 98.5 percent of the units built during the past 10 years in these two cities were high-end apartments.
Chandler added over 6,800 new suites during the past decade, while Scottsdale added 8,600 apartments to the local inventory.
Luxury apartments in Chandler and Scottsdale, averaging 970 and 983 square feet, respectively, are about 200 square feet bigger than their non-luxury counterparts and feature a wide variety of premium amenities.