By Catherine Reagor, Jen Fifield and Paulina Pineda| October 23rd, 2019
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Opportunity zones, created in President Donald Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are a tax break aimed at driving investment and fast-track development to areas that could use more affordable housing, local services and jobs.

Here are five metro Phoenix areas that could have benefited substantially from the opportunity zone designation to draw investors and new development. 

Some got it, some didn't.

Metrocenter

This area in northwest Phoenix near Interstate 17 and Dunlap Road is anchored by what once was one of the top malls in the U.S.

The Metrocenter neighborhood fell on hard times two decades ago and became a spot designated for blight. Phoenix chose the area as one of its opportunity zones in hopes the nearly 50-year-old mall might finally be redeveloped.

The median family income in the area was $40,492 in 2015, the year used to pick U.S. areas to qualify. By 2017, it had climbed to $61,250.

PLANS FOR MALL:  Former Metrocenter JCPenney may become self-storage facility

Guadalupe

Guadalupe, a landlocked, square-mile town bordered by Interstate 10 to the west and thriving Tempe on all other sides, didn’t make the cut to become an opportunity zone.

The culturally and ethnically diverse town of about 6,500 has struggled to bounce back from the recession and has found it difficult to secure steady revenue streams to keep town services afloat. As a result, the town is looking to reduce costs by outsourcing city services such as police, fire, courts and sanitation.

The median household income in the area was $36,477 in 2015 and climbed slightly to $38,350 in 2017.

Valley cities with fewer than 10,000 residents could apply to Arizona for a zone through Maricopa County but not on their own.

South Phoenix

Some neighborhoods in the area south of downtown Phoenix made the cut to become opportunity zones. Currently, warehouses and older affordable housing are the most common developments in the area that has many vacant lots. 

With annual household incomes ranging in the area from about $15,000 to $40,000, the help attracting new development and investment is needed. Half of the residents in a few of the census tracts selected for opportunity zones fell below metro Phoenix’s poverty level. 

Maryvale

Long one of the Valley’s most affordable areas for housing, this west Phoenix neighborhood didn’t garner any opportunity zone tags. Maryvale was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, and some areas are still recovering.

The median family income doubled to nearly $32,000 from 2015 to 2017. It remains less than half metro Phoenix’s family income. Maryvale’s affordable home prices has drawn many investors and flippers, but more development along the area's boundary with Interstate 10 would help. 

Grand Canyon University/west Phoenix

Grand Canyon University, a private nonprofit Christian university, has given the area west of Interstate 17 along Camelback Road a boost as its enrollment has skyrocketed. Now tagged as an opportunity zone, the tract could draw more apartments and shopping centers for its growing student population.

The area needs it, because the median family income in the neighborhood fell from $25,112 in 2015 to $17,101 in 2017.

A big population of college students in an area can lower family income data.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8040. Follow her on Twitter, @Catherinereagor.

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