(Source: AZCentral) – Catherine Reagor: A huge swath of land on the western edge of metro Phoenix has drawn an $80 million investment from Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ investment group Cascade Investment LLC, a move that could change the region’s future growth.
A group controlled by billionaire Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC recently bought a significant stake in the 24,800-acre Belmont development near the White Tank Mountains, according to property records.
Few people live in the area now, but plans for Belmont call for as many as 80,000 homes, 3,800 acres of industrial, office and retail space, 3,400 acres of open space and 470 acres for public schools, according to Arizona-based Belmont Partners, the real estate developer behind the project.
The anticipated alignment for the future Interstate 11includes a five-mile corridor through Belmont.
The proposed freeway, not yet funded, would run from Reno, Nevada, to Mexico.
Banking on future freeway
When built out, Belmont would be comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Belmont Partners said in a statement.
“This is a very long-term investment that has attracted a West Coast technology and real estate investor,” said real estate attorney Grady Gammage, speaking for the development firm led by Larry Yount, the land’s longtime owner.
Gammage declined to name or confirm the property’s investor.
Property records list the investment group’s tax mailing address as the Kirkland, Washington headquarters for Cascade and an office for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
An attorney also tied to Cascade was listed in property records for the deal as well.
Mt. Lemmon Holdings, a Delaware LLC, is listed as the official investor on property records.
Will it change Valley growth?
Belmont, which is bounded roughly by 371st Avenue on the west, 330th Avenue on the east, Interstate 10 on the south and the Central Arizona Project Canal to the north, has been on the drawing board since the early 1990s.
Growth in the West Valley stalled during a real-estate crash then and again in 2009. But now home building has resumed in Buckeye’s Tartesso, a community between Belmont and the White Tank Mountains. In September 2016, Irvine, California-based Dolphin Partners paid $80 million for 10,000 acres in Tartesso.
Of Belmont, Gammage said the land’s owners want to create a “cutting-edge” community that could change the Valley’s growth pattern.
He said the owners don’t intend to begin selling to land home builders until a new plan for Belmont is completed.
“They are rethinking what a community is that isn’t led by homebuilding,” Gammage said.
‘Nearly blank slate’
The community offers a “nearly blank slate of opportunity,” Gammage said in a statement. The vision calls for it to be a sustainable city capitalizing on cutting-edge infrastructure. designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs.
Yount, manager of Belmont Partners, said in a statement, “Belmont illustrates that Arizona remains at the leading edge of trends in American urban planning and development, keying off of advances in solar power and electric distribution systems, autonomous auto testing, broadband, and data centers.”
Yount also declined to name the $80 million investor.