Mesa ( MAY-sə) is a city in Maricopa County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. It is the most populous city in the East Valley section of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It is bordered by Tempe on the west, the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community on the north, Chandler and Gilbert on the south along with Queen Creek, and Apache Junction on the east.
Mesa is the third-largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson, the 36th-largest city in the US, and the largest city that is not a county seat. The city is home to 504,258 people as of 2020 according to the Census Bureau. A 2014 study by researchers determined Mesa to be "America's most conservative city".
More than 40,000 students are enrolled in more than 10 colleges and universities located in Mesa.
Mesa is home to the largest relief airport in the Phoenix area, Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport, located in the southeastern corner of the city.
The history of Mesa dates back at least 2,000 years to the arrival of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam, whose name means "All Used Up" or "The Departed Ones", built the original canal system. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. Some were up to 90 feet (27 m) wide and 10 feet (3.0 m) deep at their head gates, extending for as far as 16 miles (26 km) across the desert. By AD 1100 water could be delivered to an area over 110,000 acres (450 km), transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By 1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals, many of which are still in use.
After the disappearance of the Hohokam and before the arrival of the early settlers, little is known; explorers did not venture into this area. By the late 19th century near present-day Mesa, U.S. Army troops relocated the Apache, opening the way for settlement.
Mormon pioneer Daniel Webster Jones, with Henry Clay Rogers as his right-hand man, left St. George, Utah, in March 1877. Jones had been asked by Mormon officials to direct a party of people in establishing a settlement in Arizona. They traveled south and settled on the north side of the present Mesa area. This settlement was initially known as Fort Utah and later as Jonesville. It was located near Lehi Road. In 1883 it was named Lehi at the suggestion of Brigham Young, Jr.
About this same time, another group dubbed the First Mesa Company arrived from Utah and Idaho. Their leaders were Francis Martin Pomeroy, Charles Crismon, George Warren Sirrine and Charles I. Robson. Rather than accepting an invitation to settle at Jones's Lehi settlement, they moved up onto the mesa that serves as the city's namesake. They dug irrigation canals and used some of the original Hohokam canals. By April 1878, water was flowing through them. The Second Mesa Company arrived in 1879 and settled to the west of the First Mesa Company because of more available farmland. This settlement was originally called Alma and later Stringtown. It was located near where Alma School Road.
On July 17, 1878, Mesa City was registered as a 1-square-mile (2.6 km) townsite. The first school was built in 1879. In 1883, Mesa City was incorporated with a population of 300 people. Dr. A. J. Chandler, who would later go on to found the city of Chandler, worked on widening the Mesa Canal in 1895 to allow for enough flow to build a power plant. In 1917, the city of Mesa purchased this utility company. The revenues from the company provided enough for capital expenditures until the 1960s. During the Great Depression, WPA funds provided paved streets, a new hospital, a new town hall and a library.
After the founding of the city the elected official that most impacted the municipality was George Nicholas Goodman. He was mayor five different times during three different decades (1938–1942, 1946–1948, 1952–1956) (see: List of mayors of Mesa, Arizona). As mayor he was directly involved in the process of acquiring land for both Falcon Field and Williams Field.
With the opening of Falcon Field and Williams Field in the early 1940s, more military personnel began to move into the Mesa area. With the advent of air conditioning and the rise of tourism, population growth exploded in Mesa as well as the rest of the Phoenix area. Industry—especially early aerospace companies—grew in the 1950s and 1960s. As late as 1960, half of the residents of Mesa made a living with agriculture, but that number declined substantially as Mesa's suburban growth continued on track with the rest of the Phoenix metro area.
Due to Mesa's long east to west travel distance, in excess of 18 miles (29 km)
and large land area 133.13 square miles (344.8 km), locations in Mesa are often referred to as residing within either West Mesa or East Mesa.
Mesa employs a grid system for street numbering that is different from that used in Phoenix and other portions of the metropolitan area. Center Street, running north to south, bisects Mesa into eastern and western halves and serves as the east and west numbering point of origin within Mesa. Streets west of Center St., such as W. University Drive or W. Main St. are considered to be in West Mesa, whereas streets east of Center St., such as E. University or E. Main St., are considered to be in East Mesa.
Mesa Drive, running north to south and bisecting Mesa into east and west sections, is located 0.5 miles (800 m) east of Center Street, and serves as the zip code boundary between the 85281, 85201, 85202, and 85210 zip codes of Western Mesa and the 85203, 85204, 85205, 85206, 85207, 85208, 85209, 85212, 85213, 85215, 85220, and 85242 zip codes of Eastern Mesa.
Located in the Sonoran Desert, Mesa has a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh), with mild winters and very hot summers.
According to the 2020 Census, the racial composition of Mesa was:
According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of Mesa was:
As of the census of 2010, there were 439,041 people, 146,643 households, and 99,863 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,171.3 inhabitants per square mile (1,224.4/km). There were 175,701 housing units at an average density of 1,405.7 per square mile (542.7/km2).
The racial make-up of the city was 81.6% White, 2.4% Black or African American, 2.2% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 9.3% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. 24.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 146,643 households, out of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 24.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.20.
The age distribution was 27.3% under 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,817, and the median income for a family was $49,232. Males had a median income of $35,960 versus $27,005 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,601. About 6.2% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.
In a 2014 study, academic researchers from MIT and UCLA analyzed over a decade's worth of public opinion surveys. They determined that Mesa was the "most conservative American city of more than 250,000 residents".
According to the city's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Numerous properties in the city are considered to be historical and have been included either in the National Register of Historic Places or the listings of the Mesa Historic Properties.
Mesa has over 2,280 acres of parkland in the city limits. Its largest is Red Mountain Park which spans 1,146 acres. It includes a lake, playgrounds, a basketball court and a cement volleyball court.
Mesa is home to numerous championship golf courses, including the original course in town, Mesa Country Club. This course was founded in the late 1940s by the original leaders of the town, and "Country Club Drive", the most prominent street in Mesa, was at one point the modest entrance to the club.
The abandoned Fiesta Mall is located in West Mesa, and owned by Westcor. Its anchors were Sears and Best Buy. It is located near several shopping centers, Mesa's Bank of America, and other retail stores, banks, and restaurants. Though deserted, a refurbishment and expansion of the mall has been planned.
Mesa Riverview is a new outdoor destination retail center in the northwestern corner of the city, near Loop 202 and Dobson Road. At build-out the center will include 1,300,000 square feet (120,000 m) of retail space. Its anchors include Bass Pro Shops, Cinemark Theaters, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.
Located in East Mesa is Superstition Springs Business Park. It includes the Superstition Springs Center, a shopping mall owned by Macerich. It features an outdoor amphitheatre and fountain which convert to a stage. Anchor stores at the mall are Dillard's, JCPenney, and Macy's. Mission Community Church, previously known as Superstition Springs Community Church, was initially named after this business park.
Almost all of the city of Mesa is served by public schools operated by Mesa Public Schools; however, a small southern portion is served by the Gilbert Public Schools and the Queen Creek Unified School District, and a small western portion is served by the Tempe Elementary School District and the Tempe Union High School District.
Pilgrim Lutheran School is a Christian Pre-K-8 school of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Mesa.
More than 40,000 students are enrolled in more than 10 colleges and universities located in Mesa. Mesa is home to Mesa Community College, the largest of the Maricopa Community Colleges, which enrolls over 24,000 full and part-time students, and Chandler–Gilbert Community College. The Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University lies in southeast Mesa. This satellite campus enrolls over 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students in scientific and engineering fields. A. T. Still University operates an Osteopathic Medical School in Mesa.
Private for-profit institutions include Arizona College, Carrington College, DeVry University, Pima Medical Institute, and CAE Global Academy Phoenix. Arizona State University opened ASU at Mesa City Center in 2022, offering programs from the Herberger Institute for Design and Arts including a film school with media production facilities and a theater.
After launching a higher education initiative in 2012, Mesa became home to branch campuses of five private, liberal arts institutions: Albright College, Westminster College, Benedictine University, Upper Iowa University and Wilkes University. Two have since left (Albright College and Westminster College), while a third, Wilkes University, recently announced it would move entirely online.
Several area freeways serve the Mesa area, such as U.S. Route 60, locally known as the Superstition Freeway, which runs between Apache Junction and Phoenix. It is also served by SR 87 and bypass loops Loop 101, which skirts the western city limits as the Price Freeway, and Loop 202, which bypasses the city on the north and east. The main east–west arterial road in Mesa is Main Street (former US 60/70/80/89), serving Downtown Mesa. The primary north–south arterials include Country Club Drive, Gilbert Road, and Power Road.
Public transportation in Mesa is provided by Valley Metro via bus and light rail (Valley Metro Rail). The light rail section in Mesa spans about four miles from Sycamore/Main St in the west of the city, through downtown to Mesa Dr/Main St. Until July 2008, Mesa was the largest U.S. city with no public transit service on Sundays, but now has Sunday service available on Routes 40-Apache/Main, 61-Southern, 96-Dobson, 108-Elliot, 112-Country Club/Arizona, 156-Chandler/Williams Field, and 184-Power. Up to the final years of Southern Pacific passenger railroad service, the Sunset Limited passenger train used to make stops in Mesa.
Air service in the city is provided by two airports. Falcon Field, located in the northeastern part of the area, was established as a training field for British RAF pilots during World War II and was transferred to the city at the end of the war. Falcon Field has 605 aircraft based there. Boeing builds the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter at a facility adjoining Falcon Field. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is located in the far southeastern area of the city, and provides alternate but limited air service when compared to Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway was formerly Williams Gateway Airport, and before that, Williams Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. Williams Gateway was announced as a new Focus City for Allegiant Air. Service started October 25, 2007.
The public hospital system, Valleywise Health (formerly Maricopa Integrated Health System), operates Valleywise Community Health Center – Mesa and Valleywise Behavioral Health Center – Mesa. Its sole hospital, Valleywise Health Medical Center, is in Phoenix.
Mesa has five sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: