In 2004, then-Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon let it be known that he had identified a secret weapon in the fight against neighborhood crime and isolation. The deterrent wasn’t a literal weapon. It was a front porch bench, which served as the focal point of Gordon’s Front Porch Bench Initiative. In essence, the mayor urged Phoenix residents to buy a bench, place it in front of their homes and use it to get to know their neighbors.
“The front porch bench is symbolic of a simpler time, when neighbors really knew one another and looked out for one another,” Gordon told a newspaper reporter at the time. “Not only will it bring people together again, but it will help protect neighbors and neighborhoods … and help create stronger communities.”
Today, 10 years later, Gordon’s words still ring true. And perhaps even more significantly, front porches – and their associated benches – are making a comeback in home designs populating communities from Phoenix to Tucson, and beyond.
Homebuilders from across the country have reported an increase in the popularity of porches since the end of the recession. Why? Nobody knows for sure. But, several theories exist. A Minneapolis homebuilder speculated in a newspaper article last year that the shift could be due, at least in part, to homeowners’ returning view of a house as a place to build memories – not merely an object to buy and sell. Another builder hypothesized front porches reflect a nostalgic interest in traditional home design that lends architectural interest and increases curbside appeal.
In our own experience, we have found that front porches align with post-recession buyers’ craving for a sense of a community – and our company’s desire to create neighborhoods that provide a meaningful sense of connection.
Feeling stressed? Pull up a chair on the front porch. It’s a comfortable spot from which to take advantage of Arizona’s pleasant weather, share a glass of wine with your spouse, visit with the neighbors or watch the kids play. It’s almost like taking a mini-vacation.
Backyards may still be king when it comes to the quintessential Arizona version of relaxation and recreation. But, if it’s neighborhood connection and community you seek, a front porch is hard to beat.
(Editor’s Note: Andy Warren is president of Arizona homebuilder Maracay Homes, a member of the TRI Pointe Homes, Inc. (NYSE: TPH) family of homebuilders. He serves on the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and is a past board member of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. He is also a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership and an active member of the Urban Land Institute).