PHOENIX—In a panel moderated by Mesa mayor Scott Smith, five of Arizona’s hottest districts were named at the Urban Land Institute’s Trends Day at the Phoenix Sheraton. Smith said the areas were chosen not specifically for their current economic activity, but for their potential for growth.

Leading the pack was Chandler. Christine Mackay, economic development director for Chandler gave a large amount of credit to the city’s founders and their collective vision.

“The original main families that lived in Chandler took it upon themselves to create a tax district and bring water and infrastructure to the area,” said Mackay. “This took a lot of forward thinking, especially when developing the Price Road corridor. We had tech as early as the ’60s; then in ’83 we had Motorola. We focus on that even today.”

Morgan R. Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer of Arizona State University spoke next about the ASU Stadium District.

“ASU has been around since the 1800s and serves more than 76,000 students, and with the creating of Tempe Town Lake decades ago, what we’ve done is created this hallmark of Tempe in the middle of the desert,” said Olson. “It’s so important to the Rio Solado Corridor. It’s the very urban environment we want. We’ve got the light rail, we want to attract the knowledge workers and that intellectual capital to the area.”

Downtown Tucson has seen a burgeoning nightlife and shopping district said Stanton Shafer, chief operating officer of Holualoa Capital Management.

“We’re driven by the U of A students but also by boomers,” said Shafer. “Tuscon is definitely on the upswing. Downtown we have 48 restaurants and nightclubs; it’s definitely that live, work, play element. We have historic neighborhoods and multifamily and the whole footprint is very walkable.”

Shafer also pointed to the $192 million modern streetcar renovation covering four miles. When it goes online in July, it will connect west of downtown to the U of A Medical Center. “Another huge feature for downtown. It adds to that urban, walkable environment.” he said.

Bradley E. Wright, president of Nations Wright, LLC and chairman of WESTMARC espoused the 303 Corridor.

“The 303 has been a game changer for the West Valley,” said Wright. “This 36 miles of road has helped us gain an edge on competition for getting companies out here. It serves as a connector and we have hundreds of acres of undeveloped land. It is anticipated that 68% of Phoenix growth in the next 10 years will be seen in the West Valley.”

“Getting to Phoenix Mesa Gateway used to be quite a journey,” said Jane L. Morris, A.A.E executive director for Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport Authority. “That is not the case anymore with how the Valley has grown.”

Morris says, like Chandler, some visionary work went into the planning of Gateway as well. “There were assets to be protected and we’re not just the airport alone; we have 1,000 acres of undeveloped land, we’re in partnership with Grand Canyon University.”

Gateway hosts more than 40 companies, serves more than 35 cities with non-stop service via Allegiant, and contributes $1.3 billion annually to the Arizona economy.

There were nearly 900 people in attendance at the Trends Day event.