With its size and expeditious growth so far, Mesa’s Eastmark has understandably stolen much of the attention paid to real estate in the East Valley this summer. But at 480 acres, with 1,600 lots planned, The Bridges at Gilbert has quickly become the next big addition to the local housing market.
“It was a dead project,” explained Nate Nathan, president of Scottsdale-based Nathan and Associates. “The old developer designed the rear-loaded, green core, high-density stuff and the market changed and nobody was developing.”
That was before Nathan’s firm helped broker a $23 million deal with Terra West Communities to bring The Bridges back to life a little more than two years ago.
Under Terra West, The Bridges took new shape. Located at the southeast corner of Higley and Queen Creek roads, it now includes bigger lots, more parks and water features.
“We purchased the property and replanned it and re-entitled it and then sold it to the builders currently developing the property,” said Mike Jesberger, Terra West principal. “We replanned it for a more traditional single-family lot product, which is what the customer wants these days.”
Today, 11 builders are preparing lots and model homes on the site. Some have already begun pre-sales.
The project highlights the interest buyers and home builders have in the Southeast region of the Valley, Nathan said.
From jobs to transportation to entertainment, it’s where people want to be, he said.
“The bottom line is we’ve created 45,500 jobs. The whole Valley is on fire, but it’s a supply and demand thing,” he said. “We have huge job growth, a lot of it in the Southeast Valley. So Bridges, Eastmark, Morrison Ranch, Adobe Trails, Ocotillo are booming. We’re back.”
Jesberger said there was so much interest in The Bridges, that some home builders were not able to get into the project.
“We had to choose which builders we thought could actually pay the money to close the deal. It’s a very good, diverse builder line up,” he said.
The builders are Pulte, Ashton Woods, Lennar, Shea, TW Lewis/David Weekley, Meritage, Taylor Morrison, Maracay, Shea, Woodside and Gehan Homes, which is making its East Valley debut with The Bridges.
New home permits in Gilbert have been steady this year, with 174 permits in July and 197 approved in June, the biggest month to date. In the first sixth months of 2013, Gilbert has approved 1,251 new home permits. That’s down 26 percent from the same period last year.
But Gilbert’s Development Services Director Kyle Mieras said that’s because when the housing market crashed, many lots were finished but sat vacant. When building started to improve last year, those lots were ready to build on. This year, home builders need more time preparing lots again.
“There are sticks coming out of the ground right now. Models are up. It’s going to be a big development,” he said.
Gilbert still leads the Valley in the number of new home permits approved. Only Phoenix is close, with 1,102 new permits approved so far this year.
Last year, Gilbert approved 2,418 new home permits.
In addition to the 1,600 homes that are planned at The Bridges, the project includes a 20-acre school site donated to the Higley Unified School District. The district’s board approved a bond question for the November ballot that would include funds to build a school there.
Home building in the East Valley has been on a steady incline. From Mesa’s Eastmark — a 5-square-mile master planned community — to new phases of Gilbert’s Morrison Ranch and continued construction at Adora Trails, new home sales are picking up from their anemic rate of just a few years ago.
Ken Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing for Shea Homes Arizona, reiterated the interest in the East Valley.
“As a builder, the East Valley and Gilbert have always been hot spots and even at the low point of the market, homes still sold. Most of our communities in Gilbert have sold out faster than projected because of the demand for the area and we are thrilled to be one of the first builders at Bridges opening models in late September, although we are starting sales from our Marbella offices at the end of August,” he said in an email. “Buyers have been responsive to our newest product, Shea3D, that we just launched at Marbella. We had over 500 visitors to the community the opening weekend and we just released more lots to meet the demand that we are seeing. With low interest rates and a demand for the limited land opportunities in Gilbert, we are excited about the reaction we are getting from the market and anticipate an equally positive response once we open at Bridges.”