What to do about protecting some of Arizona’s formerly hidden gems.
Sensing Change: City Of Maricopa Grows By A Whopping 4,000 Percent
"The Rotary Club met here for over 50 years, and still does now," said Alma Farrell. "We had weddings, showers and birthday parties. This was our place to vote."
Farrell is the owner of the new and renamed H-D-Q Restaurant. She attended school, got married and raised her children in Maricopa. Her father-in-law was a prominent businessman who founded the restaurant. Farrell is considered a Maricopa pioneer. One of a handful of people who has seen the area grow.
Maricopa’s growth was steady – 1,000 people in 2000; 5,000 in 2005. But the growth changed overnight.
In late 2005, the housing market exploded. Developers arrived in Maricopa in droves. Homes and shopping centers sprouted up on farms and fields everywhere. Demand was so high, developers had to create lottery drawings for potential buyers. The city’s population exploded and grew by more than 4,000 percent by 2010.
Jeff Kleck is the superintendent of the Maricopa Unified School District. He said he moved to Maricopa from Washington state because of the jobs that typically go along with growth. He started as a teacher. Kleck said school registration increased exponentially during the economic growth period.
“We were growing so fast that we couldn’t keep up with details," the superintendent said.
"We were getting students almost faster than we could implement programs and procedures and buildings to take care of the growth,” Kleck said.
Kleck added that the community grew so much between 2003 and 2009 that the district built six new elementary schools, two middle schools and expanded their only high school. He and other local residents say they began seeing the population growth slow-down in 2008 when the housing market crashed. Many of the new homes they once saw as a sign of growth are now empty. Many boarded up.
Steve Adamson is the pastor at Maricopa Community Church, one of the three oldest churches in Maricopa. During the boom, the number of churches expanded from three to a dozen and his congregation doubled.
But now the number of parishioners has dwindled once again. The housing market changed all that.
"Just seems like Maricopa has kind of stalled out for now," Adamson said. But he also agrees the slowdown is what the town needs.
"It’s also given people a chance to catch up and catch our breath. I think everybody here, including our church, is trying to find their place," the pastor said. "What is the identity of new Maricopa and what’s my part in it?”
In fact, that sentiment is shared widely in Maricopa in the wake of the housing frenzy. Perhaps the economic downturn will give this sudden city a chance to regain its hometown feel.