Sun City: A Revolution - Sun City; Revolutionizing the Way Retirement Communities are Built Till This Day | Salt River Stories (2023)

Sun City; Revolutionizing the Way Retirement Communities are Built Till This Day

By Trevor Perry

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Sun City revolutionized housing and retirement in the United States. It became the nation's largest and most successful retirement development and contributed to a new formulation in how Americans thought about life during retirement. It provided reasonably priced housing along with amenities such as golf courses, shopping centers, and activities centers for arts and crafts, meetings, and entertainment. How did Sun City come into existence?

Sun City rose from the vision of Del E. Webb who built his business through developing projects for the local, state, and federal governments in the Southwest. Webb's company DEVCO (Del E. Webb Development Corporation) succeeded largely through procuring contracts funded by the federal government--first as a WPA project during the Depression and later from military contracts during World War II. By 1950, Webb was well-rehearsed in building military installations, commercial buildings, and in manufacturing construction. He even had a little experience in residential construction, having built a company town (San Manuel) in southern Arizona for the Magma Mining Company.

In the 1950s, the idea of building a community exclusively for people entering retirement was a novel idea, perhaps because the very idea of retirement itself did not yet have a long history. In the 1920s the Florida coast beckoned to some retirees. In 1950s Arizona, New York-born developer, Ben Shleifer built the first age-restricted community in Youngtown, Arizona, along the Agua Fria River northwest of Phoenix. Intrigued by these models, Webb and DEVCO's leadership team--known for meticulous research--began investigating this new phenomenon of retirement communities. According to historian Phil Vandermeer, “Webb directed company Vice President Thomas Breen to investigate constructing a retirement community, perhaps in Arizona.” Breen, who had been a champion of the idea, traveled to Florida and discovered that contrary to popular wisdom retirees did not necessarily want to remain close to family and friends in the North. They welcomed the possibilities of retirement and often desired more amenities in the communities to which they moved. With research showing a possible market for an "active" retirement community in Arizona, DEVCO moved forward with its project plans and started to search for land. DEVCO sought a large piece of affordable land, which took him to Jim Boswell and the edges of Phoenix.

At mid-century, Phoenix remained largely oriented around agriculture, but that was rapidly changing in the post-war era. So it was not at all surprising that when Boswell heard of Webb's interest in locating a plot of land to build his planned community that he offered to sell him his massive 10,000-acre cotton farm, land once owned by the Goodyear Tire Company for its cotton enterprise. Following World War II, softening demand for cotton as well as urban growth pressures in Phoenix altered the economy in the region. Farms became more valuable for their land than for the materials they produced, spurring growth across former cotton, citrus, and cattle ranches across Maricopa county. Boswell found a ready purchaser in Webb and the two formed a partnership; in exchange for his land, Boswell acquired part ownership in the project. As exhibits at the Dell Webb Sun Cities Museum reported, “Jim Boswell saw the potential and formed a partnership with Webb, becoming a 49% owner in the Del E. Webb Development Corporation (DEVCO) with Del holding 51%.” Moreover, the agreement stipulated that Boswell could continue farming and that the partners would only buy land as it was needed for developing new subdivisions.

DEVCO moved quickly toward building the new subdivision and, perhaps, most importantly, it imagined retirement to be active rather than sedentary. The company first built the amenities that it hoped would draw buyers and make the community a more vibrant leisure-oriented retirement. In July 1959, DEVCO set to work building a nine-hole golf course, a clubhouse, lakes, a shopping center, and several model homes. Radio jingles from 1960 reflected the new ethos of retirement living as being a year-round vacation.

"Wake up and live in Sun City
For an active new way of life.
Wake up and live in Sun City
Mr. Senior Citizen and wife.
Don't let retirement get you down!
Be happy in Sun City; it's a paradise town."

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Designing retirement communities around active leisure would transform Americans' sense of retirement and help to revolutionize the real estate business. In addition, by building Sun City around centers of activity, including a civic center, Webb set the town apart and drew on the most forward-thinking design ideas of the era. On January 1st, 1960, Webb unveiled Sun City with surprising and resounding success. On the first weekend alone tens of thousands of people visited, some estimates put the number at more than 100,000 people. The company wrote so many contracts it ran out of the pre-printed forms; salesmen sat on the floor to write contracts. By April, DEVCO had sold all 400 homes that were slated to be built that year.

The homes also sold because they were affordable. DEVCO sold homes that cost between $8,000 to $11,300, below the median home value in the United States in 1960, according to the United States Census. DEVCO kept the costs down by employing the mass production methods deployed in earlier innovative master-planned communities, such as Levittown, developed in New York in 1947. The company's photos reveal the process: workers cleared the land, laid foundations, framed the simple dwellings, built roofs and walls, added windows, and so forth. Not surprisingly, as demand for the inexpensive though simple homes grew, so too did demand for more elaborate homes.

Once the novelty wore off, Webb and Devco worked to remain ahead of the demand curve, and to keep the Sun City's sales and growth brisk. The company engaged in an ongoing process of trial and error in finding better ways to sell the community. These marketing efforts included a “try before you buy” program that prompted potential buyers to come and view the community up close. By emphasizing community life, Meeker used the residents as a sales force; potential residents did not just buy a home but they bought into an active human community. Ultimately, Sun City became the largest development by a single builder in the country in history. Sun City encompasses more than 25,000 homes, 50 percent larger than the storied Levittown project in New York that has come to symbolize the post-war housing boom. The success of Sun City brought Del Webb national attention. Time Magazine even named him its 1962 “Man of the Year.”


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Cite this Page

Trevor Perry, “Sun City: A Revolution,” Salt River Stories, accessed December 6, 2022,


  • Post War 1950s, 60s
  • Architecture
  • Settlement
  • Retirement


  • Del Webb

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Is Sun City a retirement city? ›

But Sun City, Arizona turned that thinking on its head, and in the process, it set the gold standard for a quality retirement lifestyle. To this day we maintain the highest value, service, and living for the 55+ active adult looking to retire.

Is Sun City AZ a 55+ community? ›

Located in Maricopa County, less than 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix, Sun City is designed to foster active retirement, to provide people over 55 a full life after work and raising children. With its seven recreational centers and eight golf courses, Sun City is “like Disneyland for seniors,” Peggy said.

What kind of community is Sun City? ›

Sun City is a master-planned community for senior citizens over age 55. The four-square-mile residential community has one public golf course, two recreation centers with tennis courts and swimming pools, and a commercial center of supermarkets and small retail shops for local residents.

Where is the original Sun City? ›

This early Del Webb community—Sun City Arizona—was born just west of Phoenix in the 1960s. At the time, there was not much there but they had a train stop! The development corporation opened with just five model homes. It was reported that on the first day thousands of cars lined up to get in.

What is the HOA fee in Sun City? ›

The annual membership fee is currently $25 per year. This fee is separate from the RCSC mandatory fees. The $200 fee is for the preparation of a report verifying a property is free of liens, if there are any outstanding balances on the property, as well as, verifying whether or not there are any open violations.

Can anybody live in Sun City? ›

Since Sun City AZ is an age-restricted community, residents must be 19 years of age or older and at least one member of the household must be 55 years of age or older. With no schools in Sun City AZ, this means there are no taxes for such.

What town in Arizona are millionaires moving to? ›

Levinson said, Paradise Valley is appealing because of its proximity to urban amenities; the town is located about 4 miles from downtown Scottsdale and 15 miles from downtown Phoenix.

What is the average electric bill in Sun City Arizona? ›

On average, electricity users in Sun City, AZ spend about $285 per month on electricity. That adds up to $3,420 per year. That's 54% higher than the national average electric bill of $2,226.

What is the coolest area to live in Arizona? ›

The Best Places to Live in Arizona (2022)
  • Scottsdale.
  • Mesa.
  • Gilbert.
  • Tempe.
  • Phoenix.
  • Chandler.
  • Paradise Valley.
  • Flagstaff.
9 Mar 2021

Do you have to be 55 to live in Sun City West? ›

Sun City West is age-restricted, and at least one resi- dent in each household must be at least 55 years old. No one under 19 is allowed permanent residency, al- though the Association abides by all Fair Housing Laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How much does it cost to live in Sun City? ›

According to C2ER (the Council for Community and Economic Research), the cost of living in Sun City is estimated to be 92.1% of the national average making it an average US city.
Housing (Rent / Mortgage)$11,295
Other Housing$7,665
Total Annual Expenditure$83,248
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Is Sun City a good place to live? ›

Sun City Reviews. It's a great place to live and raise a family! It's a quickly growing area with many lovely restaurants and shopping nearby, and a wonderful community of people. Parks with splash pads and fishing ponds are close, and Lake Pleasant is just a short drive away.

What is the largest retirement community in Arizona? ›

Sun City is the original and by far the largest active adult 55+ community in Arizona. There are 46000 resale only homes in this community including single family town homes and duplexes.

How many houses are in Sun City? ›

An 18 hole Gary Panks designed golf course is a central feature. Upon completion, this community is projected to have 4,600 homes, including 3,600 homes in Sun City Mesquite.

What is the racial makeup of Sun City Arizona? ›

Race & Ethnicity

The largest Sun City racial/ethnic groups are White (92.1%) followed by Hispanic (4.0%) and Black (1.7%).

What is the average HOA fee in Florida? ›

How Much Are HOA Fees in Florida? According to iPropertyManagement, Florida has HOA fees well above the national average. The average HOA membership fee for a single-family home is $250 per month. So, if you move to an HOA community in Florida, you could end up paying significantly more.

How many people can sleep at Sun City? ›

OModikgweng provides our guests with a relaxed bushveld atmosphere surrounded by calming fish ponds. We can accommodate 24 guests in 11 private en-suite...

Is alcohol allowed at Sun City? ›

A boutique liquor store just around the corner offering guests great brands and popular liquors. Ying Tao The Raj Luma Bar and Lounge Is Sun City's signature steak house located inside The Palace and by reservation only.

What is so special about Sun City? ›

Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world's most unique resort, the internationally acclaimed Sun City. The Resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other Resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy and your every desire is met.

Can you have dogs in Sun City? ›

Sun City is pet friendly! If you need help to decide where to stay, play, or eat with Fido, you've come to the right place. Here's the scoop on our favorite pet friendly hotels, dog friendly activities, and restaurants that allow dogs in Sun City.

Can you have kids in Sun City? ›

Children are among Sun City AZ's most welcome visitors! As a matter of fact, our swimming pools have special children hours where kids are allowed to frolic and play in the water, but that is just one of Sun City's activities available for children.

Where do richest Americans live? ›

As of March 2022, California was the U.S. state with most billionaires, with 186 billionaires calling the state home. New York was second, with 135 resident billionaires which was a larger jump over third-placed Florida, with 78.

What states are rich people moving to? ›

More young wealthy professionals also moved to Washington, New Jersey, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Tennessee and Oregon than those who left. The research comes on the heels of previous data that revealed more high-income Americans are moving to the nation's Sunbelt region.

Where do rich people live the most? ›

The total private wealth held by New York residents was found to exceed $3 trillion. New York City is home to more rich people than any other city in the world, according to a new report by investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners.

How much is an electric bill in a house in Arizona? ›

Electric bills in Arizona

In Arizona, the average monthly electric bill for residential consumers is $228/month, which is calculated by multiplying the average monthly consumption by the average electric rate: 1,571 kWh * 15 ¢/kWh.

How much does 60 watts cost a month? ›

What Uses Watts in Your Home
Appliance/EquipmentAvg. UsageCost/Month
60-Watt Bulb (60 W) Equivalent compact fluorescent4 hours/day 4 hours/day$.70 $.16
75-Watt Bulb (75 W) Equivalent compact fluorescent4 hours/day 4 hours/day$.90 $.25
100-Watt Bulb (100 W) Equivalent compact fluorescent4 hours/day 4 hours/day$1.20 $.33
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What is the average utility bill in Arizona? ›

Average Utility Costs in Arizona: $421 per month

Even once you own a home and pay it off fully, you'll still need to pay for utilities every month. Here's what the average monthly utility bill expenses look like in Arizona.

What is the safest part of Arizona to live? ›

Top 10 Safest Cities in Arizona
  • Prescott Valley.
  • Sahuarita.
  • Gilbert.
  • San Luis.
  • Paradise Valley.
  • Maricopa.
  • Lake Havasu City.
  • Oro Valley.
12 Sept 2022

What is the cheapest place to live in Arizona? ›

The most affordable place in the state for 2022 is Winslow. Here's what the website says about the city: "After cranking the numbers for the 56 largest cities in Arizona to find the cheapest city in Arizona for 2022 we came up with a clear winner: Winslow.

Can you be under 55 and live in the villages? ›

Is The Villages a city or town? The Villages is an active adult community dedicated to people 55 and over. The Villages is a master-planned community, which means it is a residential area with a large number of recreational and commercial amenities.

How old do you have to be to buy a house in Sun City? ›

What are the age restrictions for buying a home in Sun City? There is not an age-restriction for purchasing a home in Sun City. There are age-restrictions for living in Sun City – one person in the household must be at least 55-years of age.

Can someone younger than 55 live in 55+ communities in Florida? ›

Additionally, a family member who is younger than 55 may buy and live in a unit with someone who meets the age requirement. Moreover, a homebuyer who wishes to purchase a home in a 55+ community for a parent who meets the age guidelines can do so.

How much does it cost to live in a 55+ community in Arizona? ›

The average cost in Arizona for these communities falls in the $2,300 – $2,400 per month range. The costs will depend on how low you can get your monthly mortgage down to if you're purchasing a home.

How much is a week in Sun City? ›

The average price of a 7-day trip to Sun City is $2,166 for a solo traveler, $3,890 for a couple, and $7,293 for a family of 4. Sun City hotels range from $76 to $210 per night with an average of $155, while most vacation rentals will cost $160 to $760 per night for the entire home.

Do you pay taxes in Sun City AZ? ›

The minimum combined 2022 sales tax rate for Sun City, Arizona is 6.3%. This is the total of state, county and city sales tax rates.

Which pools are heated in Sun City? ›

Cascades Hotel features an outdoor swimming pool the hotel sun city is complete with a sandy beach and sandbar as well as the Grotto Restaurant, which offers a perfect place for enjoyment. Guests are also welcome to enjoy the heated pool, a Jacuzzi pool as well as the children's pool.

Is it worth going to Sun City? ›

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Sun City is a city in North West, South Africa. It has many popular attractions, including Pilanesberg National Park, The Bridge of Time, making it well worth a visit.

How many pools does Sun City have? ›

As a Sun Vacation Club guest, you can enjoy the following facilities: 3 swimming pools, 2 of which are solar heated.

Where is the nicest place to live in Arizona? ›

Here are the Top 10 best places to live in Arizona in Arizona, as featured in the 2022 edition of Ranking Arizona:
  • City of Peoria.
  • City of Scottsdale.
  • City of Mesa.
  • City of Chandler.
  • City of Phoenix.
  • City of Tempe.
  • Town of Queen Creek.
  • City of Flagstaff.
21 Oct 2022

What is the best 55+ community in Arizona? ›

Active Adult Communities in Phoenix
  • Sun City Festival.
  • Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch.
  • Lazy K.
  • La Mirada.
  • Rancho Vistoso.
  • Del Webb at Dove Mountain.
  • Sierra de Oeste.
11 Feb 2020

Are there crocodiles in Sun City? ›

Enter the world of crocodiles and watch a feeding session at Kwena Crocodile Farm, home to over 10,000 crocs and alligators farmed for meat and hide. Guided tours take you through the life cycle of crocodiles, beginning with an educational film screened in a large auditorium.

Who is the owner of Sun City? ›

He founded both of South Africa's largest hotel groups, the Southern Sun Hotel Group and Sun International. He was also the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Kerzner International. During his career in the resort industry he was involved in various political and business controversies.
Sol Kerzner
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Is Sun City FL a 55+ community? ›

Sun City Center – America's Premier 55+ Community.

Is Arizona the whitest state? ›

At 191.6 million in 2020, non-Hispanic whites comprise 57.8% of the total U.S. population.
White alone non-Latino population by state or territory (1970–2020)
Growth% growth 2010-2020+3.3%
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What percentage of Tucson is black? ›

Female persons, percent 50.5% 50.5%
Race and Hispanic Origin
White alone, percent 69.3% 75.8%
Black or African American alone, percent(a) 4.9% 13.6%
54 more rows

Is Sun City SC A good place to retire? ›

Low Cost of Living and Low Taxes

South Carolina has several tax benefits designed specifically to help retirees. Sun City Hilton Head's low cost of living and low tax rates are two other reasons residents love this 55+ community.

Is all of Sun City West 55+? ›

The Sun City West Visitors Center is currently open Mon-Fri from 9am-1pm. Sun City West is a self-governed 55+ community with recreation, shopping, places of worship, and a nationally ranked medical care.

Is it cheaper to retire in Florida or South Carolina? ›

Cost of living

Any cities with a score above 100 indicate that it costs more to live there, while anything below means it's cheaper. Looking at those numbers, South Carolina is more affordable than Florida in every category but health care.

What is the cheapest place to retire in South Carolina? ›

Compared to other towns Georgetown is definitely one of the most affordable places to retire in South Carolina. The typical home value of homes in Georgetown is $168,152. This value is seasonally adjusted and only includes the middle price tier of homes.

Can you go on safari from Sun City? ›

Sun City Safari Tours

Right on Sun City Resort's doorstep is the Pilanesberg National Park. Book a safari tour in South Africa and discover the Big 5 – Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhinoceros and Leopard.

Are dogs allowed in Sun City West? ›

Each dog shall be confined within an enclosure on the owner's property, or secured so that the dog is confined entirely to the owner's property, or on a leash not to exceed six feet in length and directly under the owner's control when not on the owner's property.


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