When Sun City first opened Jan. 1, 1960, prospective home buyers were introduced to a “new way of living” and the nation’s first community specifically catering to the needs of retirees.
Unique to Sun City’s opening was the ability to glimpse more than just a few model homes — but a full range of amenities that included a recreation center, a golf course, restaurant, hotel and a shopping center.
In addition to recreation, Del Webb officials knew residents were going to want easy access to shopping, and the company made sure to have a grocery store in place on opening day.
The Grand Center on the southwest corner of 107th and Grand avenues was Sun City’s first shopping center and home to the community’s first grocery store.
Safeway officially opened Dec. 31, 1959 — one day prior to the opening of Sun City — and for many years was the nearest grocery store for residents living in nearby Youngtown, Peoria and Surprise.
Soon after the community opened in 1960, several other businesses would open at Grand Center, including TG&Y Variety Store, a barber shop, a pharmacy and a bank.
The Webb Company expanded the shopping center in July, making it the largest shopping center in Arizona outside of metropolitan Phoenix.
The expansion made room for a hardware store, furniture store, the community’s first post office and first newspaper — the News-Sun (now the Daily Independent).
A few free-standing buildings have been constructed over the years, primarily banks and restaurants that face Grand Avenue.
But other than a cosmetic facelift, the initial shopping center structure has remained largely unchanged since 1960.
Steiner’s Amish Furniture now occupies the primary space once home to Safeway. The original radio tower seen in the early photographs has since been replaced with a larger tower.
Other than a cosmetic facelift, the initial shopping center structure has remained largely unchanged since 1960.
Archive photos courtesy of the Sun Cities Area Historical Society. Current photo by Bret McKeand/Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA
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