Shaping A Community

Valley buyers searching for greener grass are driving sales in upscale subdivision


When the investors behind Chaparral Pines made their first financial projections on the project back in 1996, they had a fair hunch that homesite sales for the side-by-side properties would be good.

What they didn't know was that by January 2000, their figures would exactly match those they'd predicted -- for the year 2002.

"We knew it would sell fast, but not two years ahead of schedule," said Gina Canzonetta, communications director of Westroc, the Scottsdale-based company that developed Chaparral Pines and its sister subdivision in east Payson, the Rim Golf Club.

Make no mistake; it's not that anyone's expectations were low at the outset.

Hammered together out of state and private land over a period of six years -- with a design incorporating "architecture of the forest" to preserve the area's natural beauty, and a par 72 world-class golf course designed by former US Open and USPGA Champion David Graham and noted golf architect Gary Pranks -- this project seemed fated for success from the get-go.

But some sales-spurring happenstances were impossible to anticipate -- such as Chaparral Pines' main attraction being named one of the "Top Ten New Private Golf Courses in the U.S." by Golf Digest magazine in 1998.

That kind of attention draws attention. To wit:

Since Chaparral Pines received its public report in mid-April of 1996, 561 out of its 684 homesites have been sold. Value: $66,322,000.

In 1999, sales of 87 lots were closed, and there were 40 resales. Combined value: $21,394,000.

Add to those figures the additional 220 homes currently under construction or design review, and you have a rousing success story now being enjoyed by about 70 part-time and 30 full-time resident families.

"The primary draw for buyers is the golf course, naturally," said Craig Swartwood, a former Payson mayor who's now the director of sales for Chaparral Pines. "But we're getting a lot of non-golfers too, because to them, the course is like a green belt. Everybody wants the lifestyle and the open space. With 684 homesites on 632 acres, there's plenty of open space."

Since Chaparral Pines was designed specifically for families, residents have been requesting as many recreational amenities as possible, Swartwood said. To that end, the developers added Trailhead Park, an eight-acre playground complete with activities center, children's playground, tennis, sand volleyball, basketball, activities court, and more than six and a half miles of hike-n-bike trails.

As for the buyers themselves, Canzonetta estimated that 97 percent are Metro Phoenix immigrants.

"Our proximity from the Valley has been a huge draw," she said. "It's two and a half (to three) hours to Flagstaff from Phoenix, and four hours to the White Mountains. So they absolutely love the 90-minute commute to Payson."

How these Payson newbies will shape the town in the future is still open to question, but Swartwood believes their effect will be minimal to non-existent.

"Keep in mind that, even 10 years from now, only 30 to 40 percent of our residents will be full time," he said. "What I've noticed is that they are very interested in the town as it is, and they want to be involved and to help -- not to change anything, but to be part of the town's evolution. After all, the small-town atmosphere is the whole appeal for them."

There's been some concern over the financial stability of one of the project's investors, the Baptist Foundation, which made national headlines with its recent bankruptcy.

According to a Chaparral Pines brochure, the financing and development of the project has been overseen by a two-member joint venture comprised of Chaparral Partners, L.L.C., and TFCI Chaparral Pines, Inc. -- the latter of which is described as being "wholly owned" by the investment arm of the Baptist Foundation.

Canzonetta, however, maintained that, in the "complicated financial packaging" assembled to launch Chaparral Pines, the Baptist Foundation was "just one of the investors, a very small portion of the project. Their bankruptcy has zip, zero, nada to do with us. We're not even listed as an asset."

Since development of the Rim Golf Club began two years after the inception of its sister project across the street, and because its first big marketing push is scheduled for late this month or early February, sales are not yet keeping pace with those in Chaparral Pines. But Canzonetta is certain they will.

"We've only had a public report since early June, so for the last six months, it's been a quiet, soft opening, pretty much reliant on word of mouth," she said. To date, she said, 107 out of 317 homesites have been sold, for a total of $29,390,000.

"The Rim is 77 acres smaller, with fewer but larger homesites, smaller membership, and a different golf course," Canzonetta said. "The Rim is designed for those who are more focused on golf, who want larger homesites, and who may be more of an investment-buyer than a homebuyer."

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