Anthem has had a couple of taglines over the years: “Life in Abundance” and “Live, Work and Play.” But none can completely capture how residents feel about the 10,000-home community at the northern edge of Phoenix. What was once empty State Trust land is now a thriving community that is so much more than an HOA, more than a neighborhood, more than a freeway exit.
Twenty years after the first homes were sold, and as a mark of the community’s lure, there’s a boomerang effect going on, as people who once lived in Anthem and moved away are deciding there’s no place like home.
So Much to Do
“Anthem is similar to a resort town in that all amenities are within a short distance from your residence,” said Amy Magaña, mother of six in Arroyo Grande on the far west side, across New River wash. “I love the exclusive membership for community members, which keeps unwanted traffic out,” she said, adding, “Not even the parks are public.”
The Magañas were doing work on an Anthem investment property in 2016 when they “fell in love with the area” and found the appealing larger lots and open spaces of Arroyo Grande. Once the reno project was complete, they sold the property and moved back to San Diego where they were originally from. It was a change she and her husband Gustavo Magaña thought their active children would welcome.
“We moved back to a beautiful area and home within their childhood stomping grounds” where their best friends lived, Magaña said.
Trouble was, the six kids had put down desert roots and thought of Anthem as home. The kids were a big reason the family recently moved back to Arizona. Sons, 17-year-old Gustavo and 14-year-old Kalib, like the safe vibe and freedom here, taking advantage of the amenities and nearness to open space. The boys named some favorite things: the gym and skatepark, a pool with diving boards and swim teams, trails for biking, and desert adventures, from dirtbikes and UTVs to playing at the lake. Oh, and don’t forget, scooters, rollerblading, even a roller hockey rink to practice in.
The Magañas like the opportunity to attend Anthem Prep charter school. Magaña says she leaves “the island” of Anthem several times a week to cart the kids to various competitive practices. But she wouldn’t trade the carpool miles for convenience because it would mean giving up the quality of life here.
“Throughout our travels of many states, we have never seen a community offer so many well-maintained facilities,” Magaña said.
“Although to some, Anthem is ‘so far away,’ we feel that it is the perfect distance to city and mountains, and although we have more than 20,000 people, it feels like a small town where everyone is looking out for one another,” said two-time Anthem resident Bronwyn McKenzie. “You don’t get that in many towns, and certainly don’t get it in the bigger cities. I grew up in a town of about 7,000 people, and to me, Anthem feels even closer-knit.”
Steve and Bronwyn McKenzie lived in Anthem four years before a job change transferred their family of four out of state. But they missed the sunshine, golf courses and sports fields.
“When we got the opportunity to transfer back west with my husband’s company, it was a no-brainer that we would come back to Anthem. We love the town and everything it offers,” McKenzie said.
More Than a Community
Anthem residents show up for one another. Over and over. Case in point from 2006: “One time I sent out a post on a message board that somebody needed help, and overnight there was a $35,000 deposit from Anthem residents,” said long-time resident, business owner and non-profit organizer, Eric Kilstrom. The money came into We Care at Anthem, created to help families dealing with the loss of a child or with children facing life-threatening illnesses.
Kilstrom moved to Anthem in 2000, the community’s first full year of existence, with two kids under age 3. “In the beginning it was really special because it brought so many people together from all parts of the country,” he said. “Anthem gave people a place to feel like they belong.”
What is good for families is also good for small businesses, Kilstrom says, citing especially those with owners who get involved in the community and provide great customer service and support. “If you do business the right way, businesses have exploded and done well,” he said.
Top 25 Places to Live in Metro Phoenix
— Phoenix Business Journal
Best Outdoor Facility (Pickleball Courts)
— American Sports Builders Association
Five-Star Rating (Anthem Community Center Lifeguard Team)
— StarGuard Elite