DMB offers model for resiliency

The Arizona Republic |
February 24, 2012
Article by Catherine Reagor

Several developers and builders have had their turn to dominate metro Phoenix’s housing market and growth economy since the last housing crash about two decades ago.

Some of those companies are gone, out of business, purchased by other builders or have pulled out of Arizona after the most recent housing crash that started in 2006.

When it came time to pick a developer to tell the story of the regional housing market’s boom, bust and potential recovery, Scottsdale-based DMB was the obvious choice.

First, the company had to downsize during the bust like most others and was honest about it.

Second, DMB is still operating and developing some of not only the Valley’s but also California’s most prominent sites. It has drawn new wealthy investors, and instead of giving back sites to lenders or other owners, it has taken advantage of the downturn to put more time into planning potential new developments.

Almost 15 years ago, DMB founder and Chairman Drew Brown took me through the then-nearly empty site for DC Ranch in north Scottsdale. He pointed out where schools, shopping centers, trails, community centers, parks and neighborhoods were planned. The real-estate attorney showed me the testing site at the community, where dozens of different types of items, from gates to street signs, were created and being tested to see how they looked in different neighborhoods.

Last summer, Brown took me on a similar tour, only this time in an SUV, because much of DC Ranch has been developed.

He pointed out the hiking trails, schools, parks, people in the parks in the middle of summer, shopping and various styles of homes that had been developed in DC Ranch. He said the community had exceeded his expectations.

Brown also said he wanted Verrado, DMB’s community in Buckeye, to develop the same way, although development would be slower because of the depth of the housing crash. The story of Verrado, which opened in 2004, and DMB’s handling of the project are a case study for sustainable development in Arizona.

Based on what it has learned during the crash, DMB is developing its latest metro Phoenix community, Eastmark in Mesa, differently. The developer bought the former GM Proving Ground in Mesa in 2005 and has held on to the site since then. The first home in the community won’t be built until next year. Resort developer Gaylord has its plan for a hotel there on hold, but First Solar started building a manufacturing plant in Eastmark last September.

An upcoming story, the final installment of an occasional series on the regional housing market’s downturn and recovery through DMB’s moves, will tell the story of Eastmark. Look for it in coming weeks.

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Jill Hegardt

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