What didn’t happen here: Desert and mountains paved over.
Why it’s a winner: Greater Phoenix/Scottsdale gets a bad rap for sprawl. But over the last 20 years, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy has preserved 21,400 acres of wilderness (with 100 miles of trails) on the edge of the metro area, closing in on its goal of creating the largest urban nature preserve in the country.
Take a look: Gateway Trailhead, 18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale. mcdowellsonoran.org
What didn’t happen here: An energy-consuming cinder-block center.
Why it’s a winner: The rammed-earth, net-zero energy, LEED platinum–certified Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve proves that sustainable doesn’t have to mean drab.