Bulldozers are preparing the ground for a milestone in Chandler history: The city’s last master planned community.

Developed by Fulton Homes, Fulton Ranch is a 520-acre project at the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road that will have singlefamily, custom homes and condominiums as well as commercial and retail space, including a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center.

"The reason why we call it ‘the last’ is because it’s really the last large-scale master planned project anywhere close to its size," said Hank Pluster, Chandler’s long-range planning manager.

The project will include 600 single-family houses, 89 custom homes, two separate townhouse and condominium neighborhoods developed by S cottsdale -based Cachet Homes, as well as a school, lakes, parks and walking trails.

"We’re moving quite a bit of dirt out there right now," said Dennis Webb, Fulton’s vice president of operations. "We’re cutting out where the lakes will go and creating varied elevations within the project. The bottom of the lake will be 20 feet below grade, and we’ll have waterfalls and water features throughout."

Diane Byrne, Cachet’s vice president of marketing, said the luxury townhouse and condominium neighborhoods will match the tone of the larger complex.

"You’ll feel like you’re in a high-end home. There will be art niches, gourmet countertops, your own attached garage and a private entry," Byrne said.

Construction has started on those neighborhoods — called Serenity Shores and Crescent Falls — and model homes are expected to open next spring, she said.

Webb said Fulton’s mixture of office, retail and different kinds of residential living space is proving extremely popular, even though sales are not yet taking place and no models have been built.

"The interest has been overwhelming. We have over 7,000 people on our initial interest list. It’s incredible," Webb said.

Fulton isn’t taking any more applications and isn’t prepared to begin sales or discuss pricing until early next year, Webb said.

"We’ve never had a response like this in our history. This is a year before opening. We don’t know what it’s going to be like when we do open," Webb said.

But at least one portion of the project is expected to open by late fall: The Lowe’s store at the southwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo.

The store is part of the Fulton Ranch Town Center, a 41-acre retail project that will also have Petco as a tenant, said Lee Ra Johnson, spokeswoman for RED Development, a Scottsdale-based retail development firm.

The town center is one of three retail centers in the project. Another is The Marketplace at Fulton Ranch, a 100,000-square-foot center slated to open next fall at the northwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Heights Road. The Promenade at Fulton Ranch is a 150,000-square-foot center scheduled to open in the spring of 2007 at Alma School and Chandler Heights roads, Johnson said.

Meanwhile, a Home Depot store is expected to go in across from the housing development along Arizona Avenue, city officials said.

For now, much of the activity at Fulton Ranch is focused along Arizona Avenue, a few miles south of the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202.

The newly opened highway and the first signs of construction on Chandler’s last master planned development speak to the changes the city’s seen over the past two decades, said Pluster.

"By the year 2010 we will be — by and large — through with residential development. And much of that will be occurring south and east of Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo," he said.

With the city approaching residential buildout, Chandler has more than 80 percent of its estimated final population of 287,000 residents.

"We’re just over 82 percent — at about 235,000 residents. So there’s really not a lot left to go," Pluster said.

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