Adding Color and Curb Appeal to Arizona Development

by Kimberly Shaw

As the development of multi-family housing skyrockets in Arizona, we risk creating a desert skyline of monolithic, monochromatic and cold structures.

Sixteen thousand new apartments are in the pipeline, and more are coming. The current administration and Congress have earmarked tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to attract tech, higher ed and other businesses to the area. The Arizona Commerce Authority has been instrumental in driving development for area warehouses, manufacturing facilities and office spaces.

I see a lot of glass and beige, from massive apartment towers to sprawling residential communities, senior and student housing, and high-tech and medical complexes.

And some older properties are starting to look a little dated and worn. Many don’t need to be torn down. They must be contemporized and colorized to stand out in that “cold desert.”

Curb appeal doesn’t apply to just single-family residences. We must ensure these new structures are warm and welcoming as we build more multifamily and commercial properties in our community.

The tech boom in the Valley has also given rise to companies that may lack a “human sparkle.” Just as cupcakes are not complete without icing or sprinkles, buildings are sterile without features that give them life and warmth.

That means splashes of color, clever architectural art details and landscaping can make each development or work facility unique and attractive.

Of course, developers and property managers must adhere to zoning guidelines. But many of Arizona’s communities are interested in history and art, and some of these colorful touches can make new buildings more consistent with the color themes and values of the original West. Plus, incorporating plants into living and working structures improves the health and productivity of those who use those buildings.

Commercial building decision-makers often think about color last. Or, they simply go with muted tones that they happen to like. But when we’ve been called into projects, we often add:

  • Two tones of color to add depth and interest to exteriors;
  • A splash of an unexpected color that fits into the desert or community — like teal or salmon (and even red or orange in urban areas);
  • Colorful murals and interior artwork with mood-altering motifs;
  • Flowers and plants throughout the building;
  • Community gathering rooms with color palettes that encourage socializing;
  • Muted tones in interior areas for relaxation and concentration;
  • Retail signage that draws in the right customers or gives calm to otherwise high-stress categories;
  • Our proprietary “paint by number” tools, enabling the people who are completing the project to stay consistent with the recommendations — saving time, money and redos.

Most importantly, these decisions are not based on whim, trends or personal tastes. They are backed by color science, a concept different from color theory.

Color stimulates the brain, with 80% of our sensory impressions coming directly from our visual system. It’s no surprise, then, that a significant 90% of consumer decisions are impacted by color. One of our clients reports that after we colorized his property, rentals leased-up 20% faster.

Two decades of color science, color psychology education and hands-on consulting have taught us that color can directly and significantly impact brain function, including productivity and happiness. An analysis of more than 40 studies confirmed that color in the workplace can have a major impact on emotions, well-being, productivity and creativity. In one study, employee productivity directly improved when participants moved to a room with a more stimulating color, like red.

We are totally committed to the growth of our community, and the economic impact new businesses, multifamily projects, and re-builds and refurbishment of older properties will have on our economy. Just as seasonal wildflowers bring joy to the mountains here, a splash of color in commercial development (based on color science) will genuinely transform our area.

Let’s not allow development of State 48 to turn it into another gray, drab residential and commercial sprawl!

Kimberly Shaw, founder and CEO of Color Design Development Group, has more than 20 years of experience and training applying color science and psychology to business and consumer decision-making and revenue-generation. Shaw has worked with real estate professionals, multi-family/multi-use properties, student housing, planned communities and senior housing. She is trained by the International Association of Color Consultants (IACC) and the Business of Color. 

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