The best places to live

Life in Western suburbia is changing. See how.

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Building a better burb
Just west of Phoenix, the Verrado housing development could have been the usual homogeneous cluster of single-family homes serviced by strip malls and megastores a car's drive away. But it's not. Developer DMB Associates had a different goal in mind: to create the look and feel of an authentic small town.

While the development, located within the city of Buckeye, doesn't address the larger regional issue of traffic - residents who work in Phoenix face a 26-mile commute downtown - it does incorporate some of the best attributes of the most successful small towns in America. Here's a look at what makes it work.

1. A working city center
Live/work lofts and apartments give the core an appealing urban look.

2. A downtown that buzzes
The four-block-long town center is filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants, covering the basics on a convenient scale.

3. Local greens
A golf course and clubhouse may not be a small-town mainstay - but this is, after all, Arizona.

4. Big lots not forgotten
While providing affordable property was the main objective, the developer did incorporate larger lots for big homes.

5. Safe, easy access
Narrow streets leading into Verrado encourage drivers to slow down as they approach residential neighborhoods.

6. Convenient education
Elementary and middle schools are located in the heart of the community.

7. Classic street grid
Main Street is, in fact, the main artery and leads to a village green.

8. A small-town feel
The mix of housing styles creates diversity - and almost 70 percent of the homes have front porches.

9. "Invisible" garages
Many houses have garages on rear alleys, leaving room for front porches.

10. Walkable neighborhoods
Verrado's tree-lined sidewalks promote casual strolling.

11. Open space nearby
Scattered pocket parks are an easy walk from homes.

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