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Tempe, AZ introduces the first car-free neighborhood in U.S.

The city is partnering with a real estate developer to build a mobility-foused community where zero residents own a car.

Land Use Planning / DevelopmentMobility / Applications

Tempe, AZ

United States

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Culdesac breaks ground on 1st car-free neighborhood in Tempe | AZ Big Media

The world’s first post-car real estate developer, Culdesac, announced the company and its plans to build the country’s first car-free neighborhood in Tempe.

Culdesac breaks ground on 1st car-free neighborhood in Tempe | AZ Big Media

Car-free neighborhood will be built next year in Arizona - Business Insider

The only parking spaces in the Tempe, Arizona development will be for visitors and ridesharing — and none for residents.

Car-free neighborhood will be built next year in Arizona - Business Insider

Culdesac will be the U.S.'s first new car-free neighborhood.

Culdesac, the U.S.’s first, from-scratch car-free neighborhood, is coming to Tempe in 2020.

Culdesac will be the U.S.'s first new car-free neighborhood.

New Arizona Development Bans Residents From Bringing Cars - WSJ

A $140 million residential project is banning privately owned cars in favor of scooters, bikes and ride-sharing, testing demand for a new type of walkable neighborhood.

New Arizona Development Bans Residents From Bringing Cars - WSJ

  • In order to live in the new Culdesac Tempe neighborhood, residents must agree not to own a personal vehicle

  • The neighborhood will have a range of public and shared transportation options, including light rail, car share zones, and a shuttle

  • The Tempe-Culdesac partnership is the first of its kind in the United States


Like many U.S. cities, Tempe, AZ, and the greater Phoenix area is dominated by cars. But as more people move to the area, congestion and other problems are expected to rise. To combat this, the city is trying something new for Arizona — and, in fact, the United States: a residential neighborhood where no one owns a car, by design.

Introducing Culdesac Tempe

Many cities have made big strides when it comes to mobility and transportation innovation. The challenge is, real estate hasn’t always followed suit.
In Tempe, AZ, the city is partnering with Culdesac, a mobility-minded development company that’s working to use real estate development to drive innovation in a “post-car” era. Culdesac is developing a 16-acre residential-and-retail neighborhood that will house up to 1,000 people. None of the residents will own a car, which means there will be no need for parking garages or lots.
Instead, residents will have a range of public and shared ways to get around: light rail, a shuttle bus, scooters and bikes. Cars will be permitted; there will be designated pick-up zones for ride share services, and there will be a parking lot for visitors.
Design firm Opticos Design is responsible for the planning and design. Without cars to accommodate, the design took cues from historic European-style villages: priority is placed on public spaces, narrow streets and walkways that don’t adhere to a rectangular grid. Each of the 636 housing units will be rental only, not owned, and will range from one- to three-bedrooms. The buildings will be positioned to create private courtyard-like spaces for the people who live there, and a central plaza/promenade will house retail and restaurants.
The project will cost an estimated $140 million to build (this will be funded by traditional real estate investment and capital, not by the city or taxpayers).

Why Tempe?

The partnership marks the only of its kind, in which a city is partnering with a developer to build something of this nature. In order to support the project, Tempe waived parking requirements for the Culdesac neighborhood. Many local governments require there to be one parking space per unit in the development — otherwise it can cause traffic and parking overflow. But with no resident cars, this is less of a concern.
Beyond its willingness to negotiate, Tempe is a fitting location for this type of project. For starters, Maricopa County, where Tempe is located, is among the fastest growing counties in the United States, population-wise. The jobs market has been strong, and nearby Arizona State University continues to be a draw. This, Mayor Mark Mitchell tells the Wall Street Journal, has the potential to cause traffic problems in the city’s urban core:

“We’re trying to get individuals out of the car as much as possible.”
The 16-acre site also is located next to an existing light rail station, which connects the new development to downtown Tempe, the airport, and ASU. This setup makes Culdesac’s goals of building a mobility oriented neighborhood that much easier.
According to Culdesac, initial interest among potential residents has exceeded what the company expected. Over 130 people put down refundable deposits to claim a spot when housing opens up. The interesting thing is, these aren’t just Tempe residents. About 40 percent of the people on the waitlist are from outside Arizona. This includes a mix of young professionals, people working remotely (the community has office suites and work spaces), and retirees looking to ditch their cars.
And yes, Arizona gets hot. While cars have traditionally been a way to provide respite from triple digit temps, the new development will use trees, buildings, and breezeways to cool things down.

Other cities go car-free

While the Culdesac neighborhood in Tempe claims to be the United States’ first intentionally designed-to-be-car-free community, there are numerous other localities experimenting with car-free living. In Amsterdam, a city famous for its bikes and boat alternatives to cars, a plan is underway to severely limit cars in the city center, including removing parking spaces and redesigning streets to be more bike-friendly. In Helsinki, the city is planning on introducing a shared on-demand car service that makes car ownership unnecessary. Similar efforts to limit cars in neighborhoods or downtown cores are happening across Europe, from Brussels to Birmingham to Paris.
Culdesac, too, is planning to spread this model beyond Tempe. The company’s founders wrote in a blog post:
“We believe cities need to lead the way to a more sustainable, healthier, and happier future.
We could bury you in a mountain of evidence spelling out the harms that car-centric development has done to our society — air pollution, more fatalities than all wars combined, time wasted in traffic, environmental degradation, social isolation, cost, etc.”
Other cities on the radar include Dallas, Denver, and Raleigh-Durham.


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Lindsay Pica-Alfano

Co-founder at Govlaunch



In Progress


Culdesac Tempe

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