(Source: AZCentral): Catherine Reagor – A prime piece of Phoenix land, home to a golf course for decades and next to the biggest city park in the U.S., will soon sprout new houses.
The infill site is 10 to 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix and Tempe, and prices for the homes won’t stretch into the millions.
The new community, called Avance, is going up in south Phoenix, an area finally drawing the homebuyers and builders expected to flock there 20 years ago.
Other new communities in the area are already selling a near-record number of homes as people opt to live closer in and pay less.
Homes instead of links
Maracay Homes is planning 394 homes on the 83-acre former site of the Thunderbird Golf Club that borders South Mountain Park. That’s about 250 fewer homes than it originally planned.
The golf course, open since the 1960s, closed a few years ago.
The builder competed with several other buyers to purchase the former links site north of Dobbins Road and east of Seventh Street for $10.5 million last year.
“There’s a need for more housing options closer in, closer to jobs and other cool things you can’t find on the Valley’s suburban edges,” said Andy Warren, president of Scottsdale-based Maracay.
“This land nestled next to the largest urban park gives us a chance to create a community focused on an outdoor lifestyle and much shorter commutes for most people.”
South Phoenix rising
The last housing boom of 2004-06 passed south Phoenix by as new homebuyers opted to go to Valley suburbs farther out. But during the recovery, more buyers are opting to live closer in.
“South Phoenix is undergoing the most significant transformation it has undergone since the early 2000s,” said Arizona housing analyst Jim Belfiore.
New-home sales in south Phoenix this summer are up 47 percent from the spring.
Belfiore said there are now 13 new-home communities in south Phoenix open for sales, and several more, including Avance, are expected to open up during the next year.
It’s not just about being closer in. More affordable home prices are also drawing more buyers to the area between downtown Phoenix and Ahwatukee Foothills.
The median price for new homes in south Phoenix is $285,500.
That’s about $35,000 less the Valley’s overall new home median, according to RL Brown’s Phoenix Housing Market Letter.
Prices in Avance will likely range from above $300,000 to more than $500,000.
Maracay plans to open home sales next spring, after the fitness center and Olympic-size swimming pool are completed.
“We can’t talk about exact prices yet,” said Warren. “But look at other communities up against big swaths of mountain preserves in the Valley. Homes prices in those coveted spots will cost a digit more than in Avance.”
The builder wanted to tap into metro Phoenix’s Midcentury architectural heritage for its houses. It’s marketing the style as new Midcentury.
The Phoenix City Council approved a zoning change for the golf course to residential before it sold last year.
Challenges in south Phoenix
The city of Phoenix has been working on promoting growth in its southern neighborhoods since the 1990s, while also helping existing neighborhoods.
A few new big retailers have opened in south Phoenix during the past decade, but many of the area’s newer residents still drive to downtown Phoenix or Tempe to shop or go out to eat.
Construction of a new light-rail line in south Phoenix is expected to start in 2019 and draw more development in the area. But earlier this summer, the plan drew backlash from residents of the area who felt they had been left out of planning process and said they were not aware they would lose lanes on Central Avenue.
In late June, the council voted to go back and study whether some areas of Central Avenue could maintain four lanes. But the light-rail plan is still expected to move forward on schedule so that it meets federal funding deadlines.
Warren said it would be great for light rail to go forward, but the Avance development isn’t contingent on it.
Loving the lifestyle
Several friends and colleagues have moved to south Phoenix during the past few years.
I recently went to a pool party at one friend’s home that backs up to South Mountain Park. Her backyard overlooks the preserve. It felt like being next to a pool at a resort in Paradise Valley.
Her husband hikes their “backyard” almost every day.
She went shopping for the party at a grocery store less than five minutes away. And it only takes her about 15 minutes to get to work in downtown Phoenix.
The new Avance development is going up near her home. But it won’t block her views.
It and other new developments drawing new residents will likely bring more shopping and restaurants to her neighborhood.