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This is a feature story with original reporting from the podcast desk.

Justin Gonzalez:

It is really just amazing to see how concept has really evolved to where a lot of the residents here don't have cars, you know, they do take the light rail, take their E-bikes, and people just, it helps people work together, you know, we live in a place or a society where a lot of people are individualized, but now like here is just a lot of people, you know, mingling, and just working together just hanging out.

Tyler Abrams:

It’s hard to find affordable housing in the Phoenix area, and it's even harder if you're attempting to run a small business. 

If you’re a student, even dorming can be a hassle. Now, imagine you are a student attempting to run a small business and pay for your own apartment.

In this feature of State Press Play, we explore the Culdesac, a new communal housing development in Tempe, Arizona. 

I’m Tyler Abrams, and this is State Press Play. 

What is Culdesac?

Tyler Abrams:

Culdesac offers a sustainable and affordable alternative to compact and crude apartment blocks by building their units around a walkable neighborhood concept. Similar to housing in Europe. Culdesac built apartments next to the light rail station at 2025 East Apache Blvd, Tempe.  

That’s not all. Tenants like Adrian Rodriguez, owner of Ito, a sustainable clothing company, can not only live within the apartments, but also opt to have their own storefront within the community. 

Adrian Rodriguez:

I started Ito in high school. I originally in high school, like my freshman year, I was selling sneakers a lot and kind of through. Like my time and like reselling sneakers, I actually ended up really getting into fashion. And through that I kind of like, was drawing inspiration from a lot of my culture and decided that I kind of wanted to start my own, like business and brand and start making things that you know, I wanted to make. So that was a lot of fun.

I originally heard about cold a sack from my friend Jada, I'd be like pointing out these spots to her. And I'd be like, Nah, but that spot is 5000, though is that spot is like $7,000 that building, I'd have to buy it for like a couple million, I don't know, half a million dollars, and things like that.

And they were saying that they're opening up some live workspaces, where you can kind of like, you know, set up a little store. And the rent there is actually really affordable.

Tyler Abrams:

Tenants also have a host of benefits to access. The entire complex is built around forming a tightly bound community. Storefronts are built around the Little Cholla Marketplace, and towards the end of the square, there are accessible gyms beside the apartments, which is also located within the square. Tenants also have free access to the light rail, which is directly in front of the complex. Residents are also encouraged to use e-bikes to commute around the neighborhood, and over 1,000 parking spots are reserved only for e-bikes.

These spaces are situated around the Little Cholla marketplace. For one bedroom one bath prices range between $1,360 to $2,210. Two bedrooms are leased at a starting price of $2,339 per month. Although tenants like Adrian Rodriguez save money living and working in these micro-retail spaces , other tenants find them more useful as storefronts only.

Hanging around Little Cholla

Tyler Abrams:

The entire community of small business owners is built around the Little Cholla marketplace. It functions as a community plaza, hosting events and driving consumers to the small businesses within the plaza. This creates an environment where the business owners build relationships with the community and their customers. 

That is how the owner of Ito, a sustainable clothing brand, Adrian Rodriguez has built relationships with his customers and the other vendors in Little Cholla.

Adrian Rodriguez:

It's almost like I feel like more comfortable at a market than in my own store, which is like, a really strange thing just because like, the constant flow of people, like, there's always another chance to try again. And with the store, they're kind of like already in your space. So it's not really a flow of people, it's kind of just like they're in there.

Every once in a while they leave and then another group comes in, but like, I've just really been having to, like, change up the way that I, that I pitched the idea to other people. And it's also like, like, the store is also my first time ever having like, returned customers that already know the concept.

Tyler Abrams:

When community events are held here, the entire plaza erupts with music and laughter. People within the community and others from around the Tempe area flock to Little Cholla to buy handcrafted clothing, food, and other lifestyle products while supporting the small businesses. It’s a model that everyone benefits from. Even if you don’t have a storefront, Little Cholla allows pop-up vendors to set up shop around the plaza square during the event. 

Jada Stratman:

Yeah, so I am Jada Stratman. And I'm the owner of Brite Candle Co. So it's a small business here in Arizona, we main focus is like home fragrances. So I do handmade all natural, like soy candles, soaps, body products, as well.

The opportunity to live and work and have that space where I'm able to make money out of my apartment, that's like a super cool concept that a lot of people can't like, grasp the idea that they're like, what your business is in your living room kind of thing.

Tyler Abrams:

Vendors like Jada mainly get the word out about their businesses by setting up at events hosted in the Little Cholla Marketplace. Their, vendors have the opportunity to sell and advertise their products to other customers at the event, creating a symbiotic relationship between vendors both within and outside of Culdesac. 

C'oni Antrews: 

I am the owner of Ooo So Ju’Cee LLC. I am a luxury drink concierge business. We provide cold pressed juices, wellness shots and bar services.

I think actually gives me the opportunity to gauge towards the community more or less because I do a lot of farmer markets and I do a lot of online. So it's really good to kind of tap into being more in the community.

I'm able to see all of my customers first of all face to face and then let them know where I'm located. So that drives the foot traffic to where I'm located, which is in the heart of Phoenix will shoot in Jefferson. So it just allows me to be in the community and then bring the community to where I'm located.

Tyler Abrams:

And other vendors like Syuzanna Sav, see themselves as an extension of Culdesac's marketplace.

Syuzanna Sav

I'm Syuzanna Sav and I'm the owner of Domecor Home Vintage Decor store.

I first started as an online store, I started selling on Instagram. And then I wanted to expand my audience. And I wanted to meet people. And I wanted to actually put all the fines I'm getting every day for people to see it in person. So I started going to the markets myself as a customer, to kind of see how everything works. I want my business to, you know, be nice, like in a fit in the market community. 

Tyler Abrams:

Ultimately, it is these efforts that make the marketplace a community space. According to Alan Pettinger, co-founder of Pickers Playground and event organizer, activating this space for the community was their main goal. 

Allen Pettenger:

My name is Allen Pettenger. I'm the event organizer, founder for pickers playground, and we host events at Little Cholla, second Thursday of the month. So we've kind of tapped into our follower base customers, shoppers, mainly based in central Phoenix. But we definitely have a little cult following at this point. And just kind of bringing bringing out our customer base and raising awareness about the space and the plaza and showing everyone that this is a pretty cool spot to hang out live, work, eat, play.

Tyler Abrams:

It’s also been a great opportunity to get the word out about the small businesses at Culdesac.

Allen Pettenger:

And it's a really good opportunity for people that have these micro retail spaces to kind of extend their retail space, bring stuff outside of the shop into the Plaza, where we're hosting events, their shoppers, it's very act, you know, the space is activated. So that's good, because it raises awareness for the micro retail, you know, and they get to tap into our customer base. And it's not necessarily a forced thing. They're just kind of here and it matches well.

Looking at the past and future of Culdesac

Tyler Abrams:

What is now a blossoming community space? It started originally as a risky venture for a lot of the older, more established tenants. Tenants like Alexander Chang, the owner of NAMA, a community space within Little Cholla. 

Alexander Chang:

I'm Alexander Chang, and I'm the owner of NAMA. Every Thursday nights, we host a free community paint night. So we have our NAMA Community Canvas event where anyone can come in and then paint using our acrylic paints on our nine by 12-foot canvas. So I'm one of the founding residents, I moved in May of 2023. So I first moved into the market building, check that out for a little bit.

Tyler Abrams:

He was one of the first to sign a lease for a studio micro-retailer within the Little Cholla marketplace Culdesac when it opened in May 2023, just less than a year ago. 

Alexander Chang:

I would definitely agree that it was a lot cheaper to find a retail space here and say, like Mill, or Tempe Marketplace. But also it was kind of a big gamble. Because there aren't that many residents here right now. It's still a really new space, and everything is under construction.

Tyler Abrams:

But it was a gamble that paid off. The live-work spaces at Culdesac aren’t necessarily for everybody, so tenants such as Alexander prefer to keep their work studio there while also being able to rent an apartment elsewhere. The vendors selling their products out of Culdesac mainly apply for the Cholla apartment spaces.

Other tenants, such as Justin Gonzalez, owner of Sew Used, a thrifting store and also the first retailer to move into Culdesac, see the potential for what this space will become. Justin also doesn’t live within his Cholla apartment at Culdesac, but he finds a way to commute to his business via a two-minute walk. The walkable aspect of Culdesac is part of what makes it appealing to residents like Justin and Alexander who take a risk trying this out. 

Alexander Chang:

I think there is a lot of potential here, especially seeing the rest of the apartments in this area. Start to be built out. I can definitely see our shop expanding into other locations, too.

Tyler Abrams:

As a community, Culdesac hopes to cultivate respect for public transportation and revitalize community-focused infrastructure. By emphasizing walkable spaces, public transportation, and electric biking, Culdesac stands at the forefront of a safer and more sustainable future in Arizona.

And that’s it for this State Press Play feature. This feature was mixed and edited by me, with help producing from are podcast desk editor Gabriella Fernbaugh. 

Special thanks to are managing team Alexis Heichman and Morgan Kubasko. 

For more information on the small businesses featured in this production you can check them out on and @LittleCholla on Instagram for all events at Culdesac.

Reach the reporter at and follow @TylerAbram28299 on X.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on X.

State Press Play: Culdesac

Join host Tyler Abrams for the last episode of the semester. Tune in to this feature to hear about Culdesac Tempe, a living space that mirrors European-style neighborhoods and helps small businesses thrive. New episodes available in the fall.



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