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Rancho Sahuarita builds virtual community during COVID-19 pandemic

Rancho Sahuarita builds virtual community during COVID-19 pandemic

Billed as a community with lots of interaction among residents and group activities, Rancho Sahuarita has attracted young families to retirees over its 20-year existence.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone indoors.

“Our community has always been focused on being together, so the big question was how do we continue to build community without being able to be together?” said Jeremy Sharpe, managing partner of Rancho Sahuarita, just south of Tucson. “Early on, there wasn’t a lot of direction on how to gather safely or open amenities safely.”

It didn’t take long for management to start hearing from residents about their desire to connect with neighbors somehow and offering to help those in need.

“We never had virtual programming until the pandemic,” Sharpe said.

An initiative called Home Matters was launched in the community, and events included walkthrough coffee socials, garden starter kit giveaways, online coloring contests, cooking classes, drive-in movies and Zooms with Santa Claus or pet pictures with the jolly old fellow.

When Ed and Sal Lytle bought their home in 2014, it was the connected community that attracted them.

“We got pretty involved,” Ed Lytle said. “We’d go to the clubhouse and meet people, take field trips to Tombstone or the Desert Museum ... we got to see Arizona and I didn’t have to drive.”

He was impressed with how Rancho Sahuarita found ways to open amenities safely and create opportunities for virtual connections.

“The same way we prepared for Y2K, I think the management has prepared for COVID-19. My wife and I say that all of the time.”

Having grown up in a big city, Hania Medrano wanted to live in a close-knit community with lots of activities.

“I loved the clubhouse, the trees, the lake, the park full of kids,” she said of the decision to buy a home there eight years ago.

A Facebook group for families with kids who have special needs connected to coordinate events, such as a Halloween drive-through and distanced visits with Santa.

“The virtual connection with neighbors is so important,” Medrano said. “We see that everyone is in the same boat and we can talk and share pictures.”

CONTINUED GROWTH

The founder and developer of Rancho Sahuarita, Bob Sharpe, bought 3,000 acres of farmland in 1980 and in 1994 the town of Sahuarita was founded.

The first home in Rancho Sahuarita closed in 2002. Today, the community has about 5,700 homes.

Homebuilders Lennar, KB Home, Richmond American and Meritage are all building in the newest neighborhood, Entrada Del Rio, with over 500 homes.

Prices start in the mid-$200,000s.

So far this year there have been 166 new home sales.

Along with the rest of the Pima County housing market, Rancho Sahuarita has received much interest from homebuyers.

“It’s amazing and surprising,” said Jeremy Sharpe, the late founder’s son. “In March, I was preparing for a recession then, all of sudden, home and community mattered more.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com or Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz


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