Work will begin this summer to transform 74 miles of automotive test track in Mesa into an urban hub so large that it will take decades to complete the master-planned area.
Scottsdale-based DMB Associates will begin with housing and parks as it establishes an eclectic design approach to the area it has dubbed Eastmark.
While a First Solar manufacturing plant is under construction on DMB's 3,200 acres, the upcoming development will finally give the public a glimpse of what the rest of the area will become, said Trevor Barger, a consultant to DMB.
Eastmark will include housing, industry, resorts and 20 million square feet of commercial space. That's more commercial than in downtown Phoenix, Barger said.
DMB is steering away from some features that have defined so many other Valley developments by avoiding cul-de-sacs and monochromatic neighborhoods, Barger said.
"We don't have a simple phrase like Tuscan or ranch," Barger said. "We have a phrase that it's not a ‘themed' theme."
Eastmark will have nine districts with bold entry monuments to each area, along with street lighting and street signs unique to the area.
By spring 2013, DMB will open several neighborhoods, a community center and 10 acres of a linear park that will eventually span 106 acres. Barger said the park will feature a splash pad and an event lawn that could host thousands, which could make it a gathering place on par with Tempe Beach Park.
The park will face the site of the planned Gaylord, which would be the state's largest resort with its 1,200 to 1,500 rooms.
DMB was ready to begin work on Eastmark in 2009 but it put the project on ice while waiting for the economy to recover. The company expects demand to be stronger by 2013, said Dea McDonald, DMB's senior vice president.
But DMB also sees a demand for professional housing in the area with the growing number of employers in the area, including new hospitals, First Solar and growth around the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
DMB will begin with 800 homes, though Eastmark will eventually grow to 15,000 houses. The neighborhoods are being designed to increase the interaction residents have with each other, Barger said.
A park of just ½ acre to ¾ acre will anchor every 60 to 100 homes, with a fireplace or water feature to create a gathering area. DMB's initial focus at Eastmark is on housing.
"Until we can actually have a few thousand rooftops, there's not a lot of interest in commercial," McDonald said.
The area now is mostly out of the public's view. The former General Motors Proving Grounds is surrounded by an earthen mound designed to keep anybody from seeing what GM had under development. DMB has been tearing out the track but will take the wall down only as it develops individual areas.
DMB said it's telling home buyers to expect the area to evolve, rather than to remain static once all the land is developed. Eastmark will become an anchor to a larger area because of its proximity to Gateway, the Loop 202, the future Route 24 Gateway Freeway and a planned north-south freeway in Pinal County, McDonald said.
While the area may initially seem like a place for a remote suburban enclave, McDonald said midrise buildings like those along Phoenix's Camelback corridor will create an urban vibe.
"You're moving into an area that will be the next 24th Street and Camelback," he said.
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