Old Laveen Vs. New Laveen
Depending on who you ask, “Old Laveen” can mean a variety of different time periods, such as the early 1900s when the Laveen School District was formed in 1908, or perhaps 1939 when Central Baptist Church in Phoenix leased space in Building A of the Laveen Elementary School to start a Sunday School. Five years later, in 1943, several members of Central Baptist got permission to start Laveen Baptist Church.
Or maybe “Old Laveen” refers to landmarks such as the Del Monte Market, built in 1908 on Dobbins Road at 27th Avenue. The building is designated an historical landmark, but still operates much the same as it always has – as a general store where anyone can stop by to pick up butter, milk, or other perishables as they commute home. That’s certainly historical Laveen. And, families who have lived here since that time identify themselves as part of “Old Laveen.”
With access to water from the Salt River, Laveen sprouted up during those early days as an agriculture center with cotton, citrus orchards, and dairy farms.
Today, several dairy farms are still operating, and cottonfields sprout adjacent subdivisions, it is Old Laveen caught in the embrace of New Laveen.
In the early 2000s, the first groundswell of development began in Laveen with housing developments, new grocery stores, gasoline stations, schools and more.
Many long-time residents lament the transition, while newer residents who moved in with the tide of development and for the easy access to jobs in central Phoenix are more welcoming.
“My whole family came to Laveen in 2005 from California,” says Rosa Maria Luna. “We sold our home in Manteca and bought a beautiful 4,000-square-foot home.”
Luna said not everything worked out as planned – she got divorced and one daughter moved back to California. But now she is “happily married to a good man. My kids are all grown up; three of them in Phoenix.” She also has six grandchildren, and “Laveen is my haven, still.”
For long-time resident Anna LaSalvia, the distinction is easy: “Old = cows and cotton. New = traffic and lost dogs.”
Newcomer Karen Severns, who moved to Laveen in January, says “My first impression is very good. I love that my little village is smack up against a cotton field. Close to anything I could need within Laveen. Mountain views are lovely. Neighbors friendly. Seeing posts about break-ins, dogs lost, stolen, and killed is disturbing. Even with that, I feel safe in my home. It is obvious that the area is growing. I look forward to our life here.”
Debbie Pyles said she grew up in Laveen during the 60s and 70s, living on 39th Avenue between Southern and Baseline. “We could ride our horses all the way to South Mountain through the corn and alfalfa fields. We used to swim in the ditches along Dobbins Road and stop at the store on Dobbins on horseback to get a pop.” She said those are some of her best memories of growing up, but it’s “sad to see how it’s changed.”
Tokcha Romero summed it neatly: “Old Laveen was like finding Mayberry nestled in the shadow of Phoenix. It was a beautiful, desirable gem that so many people wanted but when they got a hold on it there wasn’t enough sparkle for most of them.
Sitting on the porch with neighbors didn’t have the appeal of going out to eat several times a week. “So many people spoke of the charm and how sweet and quaint Laveen was, but it wasn’t really the way they wanted to live when they got here,” Romero said. “Old Laveen won’t be coming back but I’m glad I knew it; glad I could raise my kids in a lifestyle that doesn’t exist here now.”
Many residents, old and new alike, complain about higher crime rates, traffic, and all the other ailments brought on by a growing urban area.
Nicky McCullough plans to move away, as do others who express their frustration about breakins, car thefts and other crime that has increased with the population.
Lucy Ortegon-Salgado misses hearing the church bells at noon.
Becky Mann Thayer, who has lived here her whole life, remembers the 4-H Club members packing the school cafeteria and smelling the dairy farms as you drove through Laveen. There were no traffic lights, just stop signs along Baseline and Dobbins Roads.
Nat Tally described growing up in Laveen as “awesome.” Tally said it was a time when “your extracurricular activities consisted of walking your sheep and when your bike destination was Tumbleweed to get a pickle and an ice cream.”
Aimee Janca came to Laveen in 2005, lured by the rural feel and the proximity to downtown and the transportation industry along 51st Avenue. “We bought here knowing it was growing and developing with the (Loop) 202 coming one day. But, still a nice rural feel being right up against the South Mountain park. I love the diversity of people here and have met lifelong friends here,” she said. “I love the strong sense of community in Laveen. When I return to Laveen from other areas in the valley it feels good to be home.”
As little as 15 years ago, cotton fields still outnumbered subdivisions. But, despite the lull right after the housing market crash in the in about 2006, Laveen’s trajectory of growth is back on track.
The long-anticipated South Mountain Freeway that will link Interstate 10 to the north of Laveen to the Loop 202 in the East Valley near Pecos Road is under way with completion expected in the next two years.
The juggernaut is coming and what we see now in Laveen might be final view of Old Laveen as it continues a transformation into a completely different New Laveen with shopping centers, medical complexes, and accessibility to and from all around the Valley.
Rose Hutchinson Tring is a long-time journalist and owner of AZ Media Maven, a Laveen-based marketing and public relations company. She is also the founder of FinditinLaveen.com, a local business directory and free community calendar. Email her at rose@ azmediamaven.com