Marana development ‘rising from the ashes’

Beleaguered housing project in Marana getting new life

2013-09-01T00:00:00Z Beleaguered housing project in Marana getting new lifeBy Gabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

An on-again, off-again housing project more than a decade in the making is again on the rise in Marana.

Originally called Saguaro Springs, the 2,500-home development now goes by the name Saguaro Bloom and recently sold its first 250 lots.

Tucked behind the Twin Peaks, near Rattlesnake Pass, several homes are in varying degrees of construction by homebuilder D.R. Horton.

Much of the land remains bladed and graded, and developers have scaled down the number of lots per neighborhood to allow for the addition of open space, walking trails and playground equipment.

“This is the wave of the future, communities with amenities,” said Will White, a land broker with Land Advisors Organization who handled the sale of Saguaro Bloom to Scottsdale-based Grayhawk Development. “It’s rising from the ashes.”

Announced in the late 1990s, the square-mile project was eagerly anticipated. In 2006, roads were paved and KB Home built three model homes.

The project was financed when homebuilding was booming, but a few years later one of the project’s partners, Empire Land LLC, filed for bankruptcy. The model homes were eventually torn down.

Grayhawk purchased it through foreclosure.

“It was an opportunity to solve the problems that had been riddling the project for quite a while,” said Brian Baehr, Grayhawk’s vice president of development. “The timing of our predecessor and the economy created quite a mess.”

Saguaro Bloom is the first Pima County investment for the

Scottsdale developers, he said.

“When it was brought to our attention it seemed like a unique opportunity,” Baehr said. “We went in and added parks and open space because we thought that was the way to reintroduce the development.”

Prices in the development start in the $190,000 range and go up to $340,000. The three- and four-bedroom models range in size from 1,500 to 3,100 square feet.

D.R. Horton is building several model homes on the site, and company officials said the timeframe for completion will depend on sales.

“We were attracted to the pristine and unforgettable natural beauty of the area,” D.R. Horton officials said in an email. “Saguaro Bloom is surrounded by mountains covered in saguaro cactus, which we deemed a perfect setting for our newest community in the Tucson area.”

Saguaro Bloom is among the dozens of housing projects going up in northern Marana.

The far-northwest part of town continues to dominate the homebuilding market, said Ginger Kneup, a housing analyst.

The Saguaro Bloom development, because it’s tucked away behind the mountains, presents a unique challenge for the homebuilder, she said.

“The initial sales will be difficult out there because they are building a community from nothing,” said Kneup, owner of Bright Future Real Estate Research LLC. “When you drive around that mountain, it feels somewhat isolated.”

The home prices are also above the median in Pima County of $240,000, so it will be interesting to see how they sell, Kneup said.

The company is not concerned that its location or prices will deter homebuyers, it said in its statement.

“Saguaro Bloom is only minutes away from shopping, schools and restaurants at Continental Ranch, in addition to the I-10 interchange at Twin Peaks, while at the same time offering the secluded nature and beauty of the surrounding mountains.”

The home prices offer something for entry-level, move-up and high-end buyers, the statement said.

Overall, activity in the extreme northwest has done well, Kneup said.

In the past six months, 49 percent of new-home permits and 48 percent of new-home closings were in that area.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@azstarnet.com or 573-4232.

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