- Author: Jess Harter
- Category: Valley News
- Issue: Sep 2014
“Country Burb” Gilbert
The East Valley "town" of 229,000 boasts lower crime rates and higher household income than Chandler.
“City Burb” Chandler
Led by the tech industry, Chandler manufacturers ship $3.9 billion in goods annually, compared to $416 million in Gilbert.
Looking to split their time between Seattle and the Valley of the Sun, Michael and Sherry Dryja nearly bought a new high-rise condo in Downtown Phoenix. They liked the urban scene and amenities. Ultimately, they settled on a place in the Southeast Valley town of Gilbert.
“For us, I think it was two-fold,” Michael Dryja, a patent attorney, says. “First, safety, which can’t be understated. I have no fears walking anywhere in the area at late hours of the night. Second, for all the cookie cutter homes out there, the central planning in Gilbert was done very well. We can walk along the canal. Walk to McQueen Park. Walk to downtown Gilbert.”
Three decades ago, “walking to downtown Gilbert” would hardly have struck someone as a fun, urbane thing to do. In 1980, the town was a mere hiccup beyond the farm fields south of Mesa, with a population of just 5,700. Its next-door neighbor, Chandler, was no metropolis, either – its population of 29,000 barely registered on the Valley’s cultural radar. Two remote cow-towns. East Valley afterthoughts. Dragons on a Middle Ages map.
All that soon changed, however. Riding a decades-long growth spurt that made it – for a time – the nation’s fourth fastest-growing city, Chandler swelled to an estimated 249,146 people by 2013, an increase of 839 percent. Meanwhile, Gilbert exploded more than 4,000 percent to 229,972 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Both became model “boomburbs” – fast-growing municip