Character Areas


Character Areas Map [FEB 2015]
Character Areas Map [FEB 2015]

In the fall of 2013, the City of Tempe actively began our Character Area Planning process on the heels of the development of General Plan 2040. Under the direction of Tempe City Council, the first two Character Area Plans were developed throughout 2014 for the Kiwanis / The Lakes (CA7) and the Corona / South Tempe (CA8) areas. Throughout 2015, the City will conduct a public planning process for the Apache (CA4) and Central City (CA5) Character Areas.


For a list of related activities, events, public meetings, summaries of public feedback,
as well as supplemental material, please visit the individual pages for each Character Area: 

 Character Areas [banner logo]

Apache badge  CA5 badge [lemons] 

Kiwanis - The Lakes badge

Corona / South Tempe


Once every ten years Arizona cities are required to update their General Plan which contains the city’s vision of the future. Tempe’s General Plan 2040 provides the view of what Tempe will look like, and how it will function as a community. Land-locked Tempe is expected to grow by more than 55,000 new residents and to add nearly 75,000 new jobs by 2040. Although this growth can be accommodated within Tempe, more important than numeric change is Tempe’s ability to maintain a high quality of life for residents.

Guiding principles set the tone for GP2040: balanced land use; enhanced quality of life and preservation of neighborhood character; increased economic vitality; sustained mobility / greater accessibility; as well as sustainability and environmental stewardship. Strategic growth of homes and jobs will elevate Tempe as the regional leader of urban living, and be the kind of place you spend a lifetime because this is where you want to be.

Tempe’s vision for itself in the year 2040 is one of livability: a city with a diverse, active, and engaged community; a city that is visually attractive and accessible by multiple modes of transportation, with parks and cultural facilities providing the quality of life attributes that retain and attract residents and businesses; a city comprised of and defined by vibrant mixed-use hubs that not only provide for daily needs, but function as social gathering places for its residents and visitors; a city with homes of distinctive quality and varied density, revitalized neighborhoods that are walkable, bikeable, pleasant and safe, and connected within a 20-minute walk, bike, or transit ride.

As a continuation of the General Plan, Character Area Planning is specifically called upon in GP2040 as one of the central means to accomplish the vision and goals of Tempe voters. Central themes woven throughout the plan include developing Tempe as a leader in urban living; expanding pockets of urban activity centers or “hubs”; and enhancing connections for pedestrian, bike, and transit to produce a “20-minute City”.

City staff or elected officials don’t have all the answers. The people who live, work, learn, and play in each area are the daily experts of the community. Throughout the public process, we will be looking to the community to help define issues related to:

  • Placemaking / Sense of Place

    Opportunity for residents, workers, students, and businesses to define, enhance, preserve, and celebrate their best

  • Design Guidelines

    Quality of design, walkability, bikeability, sustainability, connectivity, types of neighborhood goods-and-services desired,
    aging-in-place options, livability

  • Quality of Projects + Spaces

    How a space feels, safety perceptions, shade, desirability, comfort, space programming, places to bring the kids or be a kid

  • Road Map / Vision for Future Projects   
    Formal review and approval processes for Tempe City Council, Development Review Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Neighborhood Grants Program, Neighborhood Advisory Commission, Municipal Arts Commission, Transportation Commission, etc. 

The scope of work for a Character Area Plan often includes elements not specifically addressed in GP2040 or Tempe’s Zoning & Development Code, including answers to the following questions:     

  • What sets this area apart and makes it unique from other parts of Tempe or the Valley?
  • Does this area include the types of places, businesses, and infrastructure people look for when deciding where to live or invest?
  • What should be preserved, enhanced, changed, added, or connected in a meaningful way?
  • Is this an area where one can be young and old; can one age-in-place here?
  • How can we provide a vision which enhances human health, options, prosperity, and our environment?
  • What design criteria can we put in place to improve the quality of projects and ultimately our community?
  • How will this plan carry out the vision of a “20-minute City” approved by voters in GP2040?

There are a number of factors which fall outside of the scope of work for a Character Area Plan, many which already have legal systems in place to regulate, protect, and/or control their purview. As design guidelines established to guide future development and decision-making, a Character Area plan cannot supersede any existing legal processes. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes to a parcel’s legal Land Use [General Plan 2040 ratified by voters in May 2014]
  • Changes to a parcel’s legal Zoning [Zoning & Development Code covers Development Standards, Zoning Overlays, etc.]
  • Private Property Rights [AZ Proposition 207 “Private Property Rights Protection Act” ratified by voters in November 2006]
  • Rental vs. Owner options for parcels zoned Multi-Family / Mixed-Use [no legal control process exists]
  • Prohibiting specific brand-name businesses / retailers [against the law]
  • Residential / Commercial Code Compliance [311–One Call To City Hall; online complaint form available


For additional information, please contact or 480.350.8073.