GM Proving Grounds site to boost area with 800 planned new homes

East Valley Tribune
January 27, 2012
Article by By Garin Groff

A massive development that stalled in the recession will come to life next year, starting with 800 homes and the first stage of a mile-long park on the site of the former General Motors Proving Grounds in Mesa.

DMB anticipates an improving economy and dwindling number of foreclosures will create demand for housing at the site of the former test facilty, located in east Mesa.

No housing development of this size has been announced in the Valley for several years, said Dea McDonald, a senior vice president with DMB.

DMB plans nine neighborhoods, with multiple homebuilders working on 50-100 homes each. DMB also announced the massive development of houses, shopping and employment centers would be named Eastmark.

Homebuilders typically like to take on hundreds of houses at once but decided to take a smaller bite at the apple in this economy, McDonald said.

“What we were surprised to find was they were interested,” he said. “They felt like sometime in ’13, as long as there wasn’t a major change in the economy, there would be a new demand in the East Valley. They would be out of inventory.”

The first development of Eastmark was supposed to open this year. But the Gaylord, a resort of up to 1,500 rooms, has been on hold since shortly after plans were announced in 2008. The first Eastmark project to get off the ground was a First Solar manufacturing plant that’s now under construction.

Now, DMB expects to build houses for several years before other commercial ventures begin. The East Valley’s housing market is the strongest in the Valley, McDonald said.

“The existing inventory will be depleted soon, which will provide even more demand,” he said.

The homes will be near a 10 acre park DMB will donate to Mesa. It’s part of a mile-long, 106-acre linear park that will eventually span Eastmark.

DMB isn’t taking a risk despite years of grim news about Valley real estate, said Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. He expects the builders will start cautiously to avoid putting too many houses on the market at once. But with 600 to 700 new homes being completed a month in the Valley, Orr said DMB’s ambitions realistic.

“It’s probably a more attractive location than some of the ones they’ve been building over the past decade that are farther out,” Orr said. “DMB is pretty successful over the last 20 years at picking good investments and developing communities at the right place.”

DMB expects to develop Eastmark over 30 to 40 years. It includes mid-rise buildings along Ellsworth Road and a dense commercial area by the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, said Eastmark could support “a sea of 10-story buildings” similar to what surrounds the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.

“They have in mind that this is going to be a major destination. It’s just going to take a while for it to develop,” Arnett said. “Eastmark is an easy name to say, but it doesn’t mean anything just yet. I think it’s going to grow in stature over time.”

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