NW Tucson sees improvements in development prospects - The Explorer: News

NW Tucson sees improvements in development prospects

Oro Valley to get LA Fitness, housing; Marana to focus on commercial and industrial

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Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 3:00 am

While the road to economic recovery remains lengthy, officials in Oro Valley and Marana are excited about several developments coming to the Northwest region.

Both communities have several projects either moving forward with construction, or following the required steps in the planning stages of growth. Officials agree that revenues and sales taxes are down, but with some incoming growth, they are optimistic about things getting better from here.

Marana

The Town of Marana continues to grow in population, and is gaining more attention from the business community.

Josh Wright, Marana’s director of strategic initiatives, said the town is making strides in the areas of major office and industrial development.

The recent construction and opening of the Marana Health Center created about 200 local jobs.

Wright said another boost to the economy is the 71,000-square-foot expansion of the Sargent Aerospace and Defense facility south of Cortaro Road near Interstate 10. With the opening of the facility coming soon, Wright estimated it would add another 250 jobs to the area.

Sargent already operates a 60,000-square-foot plant nearby at its company headquarters, 5675 W. Burlingame Road.

“The health center and the expansion projects add a great job base to the community,” said Wright. “They are two major success stories for us.”

In commercial development, Wright said LA Fitness is under construction at the Arizona Pavilions off Cortaro Road, and more shopping centers are under construction at Twin Peaks Parkway, which will serve as an addition to the existing retail facilities in the area.

In residential development, Marana is also seeing movement with some developments that earlier had appeared to be dead.

The town is in the process of negotiating a Community Facilities District plan with Grayhawk Development. The project once known as Saguaro Springs is now called Saguaro Bloom.

Empire and KB Homes first proposed the project in 2007. Empire filed bankruptcy in 2008.

Scottsdale developer Grayhawk later bought out the bank’s note and foreclosed on Empire’s interest in the property.

Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said Grayhawk rescued the project, but has some work ahead. The original developer had started building the roads and platting the 2,500-home development. The property was abandoned, and now needs to be brought up to current building codes.

“The roads are in, but many of them are going to need to be repaired because they sat for so long,” said Davidson. “They only had three model homes before they went bankrupt. When they left the property, the homes were vandalized and our fire department ended up demolishing them.”

To bring the development up to code and the remediate existing infrastructure, Grayhawk anticipates it will spend between $6 million and $8 million. It will cost the developer $15 million to construct its portion of Twin Peaks Road, Lambert Lane, Airline Road, public park improvements and other required improvements.

“This is a project that really went under after common-area improvements were made,” said Wright. “Now, we’ll get to see homes under construction.”

In multi-family housing, Wright said in Dove Mountain, the Legacy Apartments has also been completed and opened its doors.

If recent activity serves as an indictor, Wright said he is confident local development is slowly coming back to life, and he hopes to continue focusing on the industrial sector as more businesses show interest in the community.

Oro Valley

The main project in Oro Valley is the $10 million Desert Springs Retirement Community under construction on Lambert Lane.

Desert Springs will include a two-story complex that will have 111 units on the east side of the property along with seven two-bedroom cottages on the west side.

Besides housing, the 55-and-over retirement community will have a movie theater, chapel, library and gym.

It is slated to open in the fall of 2012.

Also in the area of commercial development, town officials are working with LA Fitness for a new facility on the corner of Hardy and Oracle roads.

LA Fitness is proposing to develop an indoor recreation facility on 8.5 acres of land. Because of the sloping site, the fitness company has requested partial relief from the town’s current grading ordinance via a grading exception.

As part of the development review process, the fitness center held a neighborhood meeting on June 21.

A new commercial center is also being considered on the corner of La Cañada Drive and Lambert Lane. The building already has two tenants in place.

Interim Town Manager Greg Caton said Oro Valley has been recognized as a strong community, and more projects are coming down the pipelines as the town and nation continues to pull out of the economic recession.

One area showing more improvement than expected is residential development.

Suzanne Smith, the town’s director of infrastructure and development services, said housing developer D.R. Horton appears to be moving forward with construction plans.

The developer has applied for 11 single-family residential permits for construction along La Cañada. The new homes will be constructed based on five model homes already approved in the development.

“We have seen significant improvement with residential home permits,” said Smith. “Whether that can be sustained is still something we don’t know at this time.”

The town also issued one permit for a custom home, and one for a model home.

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