The tremendous success of Sun City during its first decade prompted the Del Webb Co. officials to extend the community north of Grand Avenue and in the late 1960s begin building what became known as phase two.
As a new decade dawned in 1970, Sun City phase two began taking shape and took on a look much different than the community’s first phase. Homes were larger and the recreation facilities eventually constructed were more than double the size of those built in the 1960s. Phase two would also be the site of the community’s first hospital and a large lake to please those who owned boats.
Phase two would also include a new design element unique to Sun City’s that portion of the community — circular neighborhoods. The circular streets, easily spotted from the air or on any map of the Valley, would in themselves become a Sun City landmark.
Yet, the exact reason behind the circular streets, or who came up with the idea, has always been somewhat of a mystery. But there are some important clues.
John Meeker was a man of vision and became head of Del E. Webb Development Co. in 1966. By then, phase one was laid out with traditional straight north/south and east/west main streets, such as 103rd Avenue, Peoria Avenue and others.
His attention no doubt became focused on phase two, which he sought to make distinctive. Viewpoint Lake, for example, would be the first man-made lake in an Arizona community.
It is known Mr. Meeker believed he was building more than houses, creating a sense of “community” and belonging. The circular nature of that first area in phase two was a way to break up the expanse of phase two into small neighborhoods where people could feel a sense of belonging. For example, in the center of that first circular neighborhood were shops, restaurants, a bank and even a movie theater.
The circular idea also found its way into the design of phase two’s first recreation center — the round Lakeview Center, 10626 W. Thunderbird Blvd.
The unusual circular layout had one more benefit — golf course lots sold for a premium and the circular design helped maximize the number available.
Three more circular residential neighborhoods would be built as Sun City expanded. One had a recreation center — Sundial Center, 14801 N. 103rd Ave. — at the core; the other two had churches.
One story making the rounds was that the circular streets made it difficult for thieves to find their way out after committing a crime. That in turn made the area less attractive for crime — but that’s folklore, not fact.
One additional clue to solving the mystery may have been gathered during a recent interview with Wally Britton, DEVCO head of development in Sun City during the 1960s and 1970s. Del Webb Sun Cities Museum officials recently sat down with Mr. Britton, now 95, to hear his recollections of Sun City’s growth during its first two decades.
Mr. Britton was asked about the reasons behind the circular streets. According to Mr. Britton, it was simply a way to satisfy the customer. As people would order homes to be constructed, many wanted their homes to face a certain direction — some buyers longed to sit on their porch and watch the Arizona sunset, while others preferred to watch the sun come up. If all the streets ran parallel in one direction, options were severely limited.
“It was just a way to be different,” recalled Mr. Britton, “And the circular streets gave people more choices in which way to face their homes.”
Editor’s Note: Mr. Allen is a local historian and a former Del Webb Sun Cities Museum president.