Incorporated on October 15, 2003, the City of Maricopa has a rich history of agriculture and transportation. However, agriculture is currently giving way to rapid suburban expansion from the Phoenix metropolitan area as the Maricopa area transitions from a rural city to a suburban and urban community. The economy of the City, traditionally an agricultural center, is diversifying and currently heavily influenced by the residential and retail construction and real estate industries.
This General Plan provides the City with the blueprint for an enhanced economy, orderly growth and support of Maricopa’s neighborhoods and desired community character. The Plan is intended to implement, and where necessary expand on the planning goals and strategies of the citizen-driven 2040 Vision Strategic Plan (adopted May 5, 2015). The Introduction Section contains guidance for using the General Plan document, identifies the basic assumptions for organizing Maricopa’s planning principles, and provides direction for administering the plan.
Maricopa has a long and rich history that dates back over 300 years. The first known historical reference to Maricopa is a 1694 journal entry by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, describing an area that would become Maricopa Wells. He noted an established agricultural community populated by friendly Native Americans who were established traders.
During the Mid-1800s, while still part of Mexico, Maricopa Wells was a dependable source of water along the Gila Trail. It became an important and famous stage stop, offering food, water and care for travelers’ animals, along the Butterfield Stage Line that stretched from San Antonio to San Diego.
The 1870s brought the railroad south of the wells. Phoenix was little more than a tiny village on the Salt River but growing political influence led to the building of a spur line from Maricopa to Phoenix. Maricopa became an important junction for two railroads, the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad (M&P), in July of 1887. Daily, hundreds of people could be seen waiting at the Maricopa Railroad Station, or one of the two hotels that paralleled the tracks, to board east-west trains or those heading for Tempe and Phoenix. Unfortunately, the M&P suffered difficulties from the beginning. Floods frequently washed out the line causing the trains to be a day to a week late. Eventually, a new railroad line was built from Picacho through Coolidge, Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and into Phoenix. Southern Pacific closed the M&P completely in 1935, and tore up the tracks that ran from Maricopa to Phoenix a few years later. Today’s Maricopa Road (also known as State Route 347 and the John Wayne Parkway) lies over the top of the old rail bed.
Maricopa settled into a slower pace as rail traffic north was halted in 1935. Agricultural production had been consistent through time in Maricopa, creating a healthy farm economy. Maricopa has been one of the most productive farm communities in the state. Cotton, grains, fruit, vegetables, and beef thrive in this arid desert. Cotton was king during the 1950-60s. The streets were alive with cotton pickers from the Midwest and Mexico. In the 1970-80s hundreds of acres of farmland were sold to developers who subdivided it into 3 1/3 acre mini-farms which attracted large numbers of residents from all walks of life and occupations, bringing with them a dream for a better life and a desire to raise their children in the country.
Since the incorporation (October 2003), the City of Maricopa has become one of Arizona’s fastest growing communities transforming from an agricultural community of under 2000 to a city of over 46,000 as of 2015. Most residents are employed in non-farming industries and commute to their places of employment in nearby Casa Grande or the greater Phoenix area. Maricopa has experienced a significant increase in home occupations, accounting for 60% of all businesses in the City as of 2015, and is also becoming a regional hotbed for the agritech industry as well as a “clean and green” industry hub. The City is home to a thriving cluster of local agritech businesses and research facilities, including the USDA Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center and the University of Arizona Maricopa Agricultural Center. On the renewable energy side, Pinal Energy opened the state’s first ethanol plant in Maricopa in 2007 and Waste Management and Garick have partnered on a green waste to fuel project.
The City continues to grow steadily as noted by construction activity that has averaged 33 new residential homes every month over the past 3 years. Based on proximity to the Phoenix metropolitan area and the inevitable depletion of available land in the East Valley, Maricopa will likely continue to experience exponential growth.