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Tucson Development Gets New Life

Originally Published in Arizona Daily Star, October 25, 2016

Tucson

Skyline of Tucson

A 645-acre residential and commercial development south of Valencia Road near Ryan Airfield, which was idled during the Great Recession, has been revived.

The Pomegranate development could have as many as 2,658 homes in an area that county officials say has increasing interest.

“We are seeing growth out there,” said county planning official Chris Poirier.

Residential development trends have also been positive across Tucson, which has seen foreclosures fall and new home permits rise over the last year, the Star reported in July.

Dean Wingert, of Crown West Land Group, which purchased the foreclosed properties from lenders, said building at several nearby subdivisions, as well as a large land purchase in the area by another developer, were a part of what made Pomegranate attractive. Planned roadway improvements in the area were also a perk.

The original plan for Pomegranate, created “during a time when the real estate market was booming,” doesn’t match today’s market, according to a letter from the development’s designer. That’s why CrownWest and its planning consultant, LVA Urban Design Studio, applied for substantial changes that were recently approved by the Board of Supervisors by a 4-1 vote.

Wingert said there are steps remaining before construction could begin, which he estimated could be as far out as 2018. He also said, “We’re open for a new name. There are no pomegranates out there.”

Among the major changes are decreased density — the original plan mandated a minimum residence count of 3,116, nixing requirements that all homes be within a certain distance of commercial services, the removal of a number of sustainability standards dealing with solar power and grey water , and mandated multi-story compact development.

“It was kind of urban planning but in a suburban setting,” Wingert said.

“We just don’t see that type of development in more rural settings,” Poirier said. “You’ll see that within the city, maybe downtown, or the University of Arizona. That was just not a very pragmatic.”

But Supervisor Richard Elías was a fan of some of the original standards, which is why he voted for the plan in 2009 and was the lone “no” vote against the proposed changes.

“They’re stripping all the good stuff out, reducing density, making it less usable for people with limited income,” he said. “I realize that they’ve had a very difficult time economically, but we have to be concerned about the quality of our communities.”

Beyond issues of sustainability and affordability, Elías said the lower density could make it more difficult to justify expanding public transit to the area.

Poirier said the changes for Pomegranate are part of a larger effort to work with developers who have picked up the land with specific plans as market conditions change.

“As long as they’re not increasing the yield, we think that we could be flexible,” he said, referring to attempts to upzone, or increase development density. “We’re responsive to changing times, and we’re trying to stay ahead of things.”

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