Monday, July 2, 2012

7 builders commit to Mesa's Eastmark

Builders are spending $50 million to buy the first home lots in Mesa's Eastmark, the former location of the GM Proving Grounds. It's the first major multiple-builder land purchase in a new metro Phoenix community in five years.

Houses on the 709 lots bought by seven builders will be for sale to customers early next year.

At the height of the housing boom in 2006, developer Scottsdale-based DMB paid $260 million for its 3,200 acres of the site, where GM raced Corvettes and tested other cars for decades. But, it was clear by the end of 2007 that the housing market was heading for a serious downturn.

The first round of builders at Eastmark -- Maracay Homes, Mattamy Homes, TaylorMorrison, Woodside Homes, Trend Homes, Standard Pacific Homes and Meritage Homes Corp. -- are buying lots from DMB just as the homebuilding market is starting to recover. Last month, single-family permits and new-home sales were more than double May 2011's levels, according to the Phoenix Housing Market Letter.

"The commitment of these builders represents an unprecedented level of confidence in Arizona's residential market backed by promising economic indicators," said Dea McDonald, DMB's Eastmark general manager. "We are seeing a resurgence in homebuilding activity in Arizona and in the East Valley."

In Mesa alone, homebuilding permits are up 100 percent from last year. A growing number of homebuyers frustrated about being outbid on a shrinking number of short sales and foreclosures are opting for new homes.

The builders had to commit to buying lots in Eastmark two years ago, when the region's housing market was showing no signs of a recovery.

"It was a tough deal to sell to our board back then, but now we all look smart and are trying to take credit for the foresight to commit to land in Eastmark," said Charlie Enochs, TaylorMorrison president.

There is no information about the designs or prices of the homes yet. As in its other meticulously planned communities, including DC Ranch in Scottsdale and Verrado in Buckeye, DMB sets high standards for home designs.

DMB's overall plans for Eastmark include a large commercial hub, retail, a 100-acre central park and several community parks that connect. The first phase of Eastmark will have 12 parks.

When the housing market collapsed, building new homes on its Mesa land fell several slots on DMB's plans for the community, and the developer redoubled its efforts to help bring new jobs and industries to Gateway, the area surrounding Eastmark that includes the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus.

Economic-development efforts by DMB and Mesa brought a 1.3 million-square-foot First Solar plant to Eastmark last year. The solar-panel facility's opening is on hold as the Tempe-based company deals with falling international demand for its panels.

Plans are still under way for a resort at Eastmark. In 2008, Gaylord Entertainment committed to building a 1,200-room hotel in the community, but it was placed on hold in 2009 in the depths of the recession.

Last month, hotel giant Marriott agreed to buy and manage Gaylord's existing four resorts. Charley Freericks, DMB president, said the company still has an agreement for the resort and hopes to close the deal late this year or early next year.

"As the first large-scale community to launch in Arizona in nearly a decade, Eastmark is being closely watched," he said. "We are designing the community with the 'new normal' in mind. People are putting higher values on a sense of community, proximity to employment and environmental stewardship. Each building partner is creating designs specifically for Eastmark."

by Catherine Reagor - Jun. 28, 2012 06:27 PM The Republic |

7 builders commit to Mesa's Eastmark

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