Phoenix is in many ways still the wide-open West for African Americans, says Michael Kelly, manager of Kelly Consulting Alliance L.L.C. “If you’re cerebral at all, you can ascend to real heights here because of the accessibility to industry, political life, and the like.” An Illinois native, Kelly served as senior policy adviser on economic development to former Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza for nine years. He’s witnessed the metro area’s explosive growth over the past decade — one that has attracted a growing number of black corporate executives and entrepreneurs.
Firms like Intel, General Dynamics, and Bank of America have major operations in the city known as Valley of the Sun. “We have some of the highest paid, most highly educated African Americans in the country,” says Kelly.
Now the nation’s fifth largest city, Phoenix has overcome past perceptions of prejudice (the Martin Luther King holiday was infamously rescinded in 1987 by then-Gov. Evan Mecham). And despite its growth, housing prices and property taxes remain surprisingly affordable in this golf- and spa-rich mecca. Here, Kelly gives us a glimpse into this sun-drenched metropolis.
AROUND TOWN : Phoenix
What sets JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa (5350 E. Marriott Drive; 480-293-5000) apart are “the quality and amenities,” says Kelly. Guests at this desert property — which is surrounded by the McDowell Mountains — include “Hollywood movers and shakers and upscale business travelers.” The hotel also boasts an Arnold Palmer-designed signature golf course.
The Phoenician (6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale; 480-941-8200) “is simply gorgeous. It has acres of pools, great dining, and a number of key businesspeople I know stay there because of the ambience and service,” says Kelly. This elegant resort is also renowned for top-notch dining, which includes seasonal French cuisine at Mary Elaine’s.
Valley vistas and sunsets greet guests at Different Pointe of View (11111 N. 7th St.; 602-866-6350), a French-Italian-Mediterranean restaurant at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort. Of this hilltop spot, Kelly says: “The food is excellent, and it’s one of the most wonderful views you’ll see of the city.”
Housed near each other in Old Town Scottsdale are several nightspots that appeal to African Americans, says Kelly. “This is the club mecca.” Among them: dance destinations Axis and Radius (7340 E. Indian Plaza; 480-970-1112); the classy lounge Suede (7307 E. Indian Plaza; 480-429-6000); and after-work hangout Martini Ranch (7295 E. Stetson Drive; 480-970-0500).
The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa (2400 E. Missouri; 602-381-7632) provides 22,000 square feet of pampering for both men and women. Spa guests can unwind at the numerous outdoor retreat areas or work out their stress in the state-of-the-art fitness center.
DON’T-MISS DAY TRIP
Just two hours from Phoenix, Sedona was voted the most beautiful place in America by USA Weekend last year. Renowned for its red rock formations, Native American history, and jaw-dropping scenery, Sedona is also home to a thriving arts community. For information, visit www.sedona.net.
Sprawling best describes the vast Phoenix metro area, so Kelly suggests renting a car when flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. “It’s a city that’s easy to