You could say Marana is a town under construction.
It seems you can’t drive more than a few miles in any direction without spotting a new housing development or apartment complex sprouting up.
The town has emerged from a construction standstill to become a hot spot for residential building. Since issuing 189 residential permits in 2009, demand has surged almost every year, reaching 703 permits in 2013.
Marana planning director Ryan Mahoney said there are signs everywhere that a boom is underway.
“I would say things seem pretty healthy here in Marana, as far as development,” he said. “New home starts were pretty consistent, particularly in the last calendar year.”
Mahoney said the Twin Peaks, Gladden Farms and San Lucas areas have been particularly strong. Another area coming into its own is the 600-acre Saguaro Bloom, which will include 10 neighborhoods at the base of the Tucson Mountains on West Twin Peaks Road.
“Our permits have been pretty consistent, and we hope to see that trend continue,” he said.
Ample land, quick access to Interstate 10 and solid schools are all reasons for the growth, Mahoney said.
”One thing Marana has going for it to draw new developments is proximity to the freeway,” he said. “People are able to work throughout the region and live here because they can use the interstate. Our infrastructure is in good shape, all in all. As far as quality of life, schools here are strong. Families think Marana has a lot to offer.”
Mara Mitchell, a real estate agent at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Tucson, said Marana’s Dove Mountain is “pretty hot right now.”
“There are a lot of new builds going on up there,” she said, pointing to the active adult community the Highlands, as well as the posh Canyon Pass. “That is a booming area.”
Mitchell said she believes the entire real estate market is turning around, and Marana is benefiting from the resurgence.
“It’s very desirable to live in,” she said of Dove Mountain. “I think one of the nice features is it caters to all walks of life — people who have families or are in retirement. People who have a second or third home that is close to I-10 so they can shoot up and golf up there. It’s a very active community, nestled in the Tortolitas. They still have great views of the Catalinas, and there are nice restaurants up there.”
Josh Robinson is director of operations for Tucson for Pulte Homes, which has several active developments in Marana.
“I think the diversity of options, in terms of higher-end opportunities and unique settings like Dove Mountain, and median-price areas such as Gladden Farms, it shows the uniqueness of how Marana has appeal to both the move-up buyer and the first-time buyer,” he said.
“The opportunities and ease of doing business in Marana are appealing. In general, they are kind of pro-business.”
But not everyone believes there is a boom afoot.
Charles Lathrem, a custom builder who specializes in high-end homes that cost $1 million or more, said building is limited to lower-priced homes than what he typically deals in.
The increase in building is only making up for years of stagnation, he said.
“I don’t feel like this is any boom or bubble market. It’s not all good,” he said. “If you look at how much we overbuilt from the 2004 to 2007 period, we’ve more than compensated for that, twofold, with how much we underbuilt the last seven years.”
Despite his doubts in a boom,
Lathrem believes Marana has the most capability of any area in the region to grow.
“Marana has the most potential,” he said. “There’s a lot of land that’s available for growth out there. And the politics, I’d say, are pro-growth. They understand developers’ plans and are always properly looking into the future.”
Mahoney said the town wants to develop its downtown area, drawing commercial and residential developments.
“There’s still plenty of room to grow, but we want to make sure we go into it with eyes wide open,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re preparing ourselves for the future.”
The town wants to continue growing while making sure it does so sustainably.
“Although we’re really focused on development moving forward, we are thinking long-term, sort of the full life-cycle,” Mahoney said. “We want to make sure we have the infrastructure, make sure we’re planning carefully, and that we maintain that going into the future. Hopefully we will really develop recreation opportunities as well.”