Monday, May 28, 2012

Signs of revitalization at Desert Ridge

Two projects at Desert Ridge may signal that the troubled northeast Phoenix community is on the rebound after it was hit hard by the economic downturn.

The last phase of Fireside at Desert Ridge is under way, and a site plan has been approved for the first phase of an apartment project, Valley Desert Ridge Apartments.

"Desert Ridge has survived the storm," said Doug Dickson, president of the area's community association. "We are on the other side of the lowest point."

For about 15 years after the initial land was sold in the area, the community thrived. Land prices were the highest in the state, with some parcels exceeding $1 million per acre. But the recession and slow recovery resulted in a virtual shutdown of construction in the area, and many developers forfeited their land to the Arizona State Land Department.

That now may be starting to change.

Desert Ridge, a 5,700-acre master-planned community, is bounded by Pinnacle Peak Road on the north, the Central Arizona Project canal on the south, 64th Street on the east, and has an irregular border on the west bounded by 32nd and 40th streets, as well as Black Mountain Boulevard.

At Fireside, Pulte Homes/Del Webb will have about 900 homes when construction is complete. The final phase, Copper View, has 74 home sites. Still remaining from earlier phases are 100 sites.

The company has survived the economic downturn by reducing prices and building only when homes are sold.

"The primary demographic for the community is move-up families," said Jacque Petroulakis, a company spokeswoman. "The demographics are quite diverse with a little scattering of all ages."

She said the final phase will include the project's smallest single-family homes, with the smallest at 1,903 square feet. Prices start at $329,900.

Completion of the project will leave only three areas of the master-planned community left to sell on the west side of Tatum Boulevard, which bisects the community.

One is at Tatum Boulevard and Pinnacle Peak Road, next to where D.R. Horton is selling homes.

The company bought the 189-acre parcel in March 2004 but returned the east portion to the land department as the economy hit bottom.

Another is 81 acres south of Deer Valley Road on the western edge of Desert Ridge. Toll Brothers bought the land in April 2006, but it also decided to return the land to the state.

Finally, the land department still has 269 acres south of Deer Valley between Tatum and 40th Street.

On the east side of the project, the Valley Desert Ridge Apartments would be the first construction east of 56th Street.

The project, which last year was divided into two phases to aid in financing, got the go-ahead for the north section after a meeting with city officials this month.

The 26-acre parcel, at the northeastern corner of Deer Valley and 56th Street, was among two that sold for more than $1 million an acre in the Desert Ridge area.

The developer, Westfield/Greystone Master Partnership, hopes to ultimately erect 722 units.

A new city waterline will run from Loop 101 north to Pinnacle Peak Road, paving the way for additional construction in the area. Completion of 56th Street north also is planned.

Most of the land east of 56th Street was sold at one point, but developers responded to the economic woes by returning the land to state inventory. Except for the Valley Desert Ridge Apartments and one other small parcel owned by an apartment developer, none of the land east of 56th Street has been sold.

The state land department retains an area around the outside of the golf course at J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and the two parcels on the west side of Tatum.

The land department is in no hurry to sell them.

"We have had discussions and proposals regarding bringing some lands back, and we are still evaluating based on the market and pricing, but we have no definitive plans yet," said Vanessa Hickman, deputy commissioner of the Arizona State Land Department.

Vacant land at Desert Ridge

Everything north of Deer Valley Road and east of 56th Street, except for Valley Desert Ridge Apartments' 26-acre plot on 56th at Deer Valley.

Everything south of Deer Valley and east of 56th, except for a 32-acre parcel at Loop 101 and 56th.

Land on the north and east sides of the Wildfire Golf Club, between Tatum Boulevard and 56th.

41 acres on the northeastern corner of Deer Valley and Tatum. This land was the subject of a major lawsuit between the developer, Gray Development Group, and the master planner, Northeast Phoenix Partners.

Undeveloped CityNorth property. Once expected to be the crown jewel of the community, it fell on hard times during the recession.

269 acres south of Deer Valley between the commercial property along Tatum and 40th Street.

106 acres at the southwestern corner of Tatum and Pinnacle Peak Road.

81 acres at the west end of Desert Ridge.

Undeveloped land south of Loop 101 between Arizona 51 and 64th Street.

by Michael Clancy - May. 20, 2012 06:55 PM The Republic |

Signs of revitalization at Desert Ridge

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