Developers are finally once again showing interest in Payson, with several housing developments now in the very early talking stages.
One project is nearing construction and a major development firm this month bought 27 acres of prime real estate next to Walmart. A third developer is talking to the town again about developing 35 acres on Manzanita behind town hall.
All told, the properties could eventually include more than 500 homes.
Town officials say the news is encouraging after years of stagnation, but they don’t expect hundreds of homes to spring up overnight.
LaRon Garrett, assistant town manager, said so far the two largest developers have yet to submit plans to the town.
“In today’s economy, you never know what you are going to see,” he said.
The project furthest along is off Mud Springs Road and includes 19 single-family lots where the Christian school planned to build a new school before buying Frontier Elementary School.
Verde Engineering worked on plans for the 5.8-acre site known as Forest Ridge Phase II and a preliminary plat has been submitted to the town.
Phase I of the project is already complete on the west side of Mud Springs Road.
Mike Horton, with Forest Ridge LLC., told the Roundup in October he had looked at the property in 2005 when he built phase I of Forest Ridge, but the school didn’t want to sell the land then.
If the town approves the improvement plan for roads, utilities, water, etc., construction could begin, Garrett said.
That project remains at the front of the line, but the recent purchase of nearly 27 acres next to Walmart could have a much bigger impact on the town’s streets and housing stock.
On Feb. 4, True Life Companies closed escrow on Timber Ridge. With a zoning change, the company could build more than 150 homes, condominiums and apartments northwest of the shopping center that connects to McLane Road.
“This is an excellent example of a premier site in an infill location that meets the definitive characteristics we require for our land investments,” said Taber Anderson, chief investment officer for True Life.
Those characteristics include properties that have good access (Highway 87), are near a major metropolitan area (Phoenix) and are one of the last development opportunities in town.
“The supply of new housing, both for sale and rental in the area is extremely limited so the property is well positioned to meet the demand not only from the growing local market, but also from those seeking mild weather second-home opportunities coming from the nearby metro markets of Tucson and Phoenix,” Anderson said.
Before any homes can be built there though, the land would need to be rezoned from single-family 10,000-square-foot lots to multi-family, Garrett said.
True Life has shown the town sketches that include single-family homes on the north side of the property, smaller lots with duplexes toward the middle and apartments on the south side. In all, 151 units.
True Life has been buying up properties around the West at a rapid pace recently.
In the past 18 months, the company has purchased 7,000 lots, including those in Oro Valley and Hawaii. It also manages resorts in Flagstaff and Prescott.
The company said it plans to buy even more land, targeting raw and partially entitled land and lots, in the next year as the market shows signs of a turnaround.
“Parcels like Timber Ridge are a profound focus for our team as we work on the acquisition and disposition of land and lots for America’s top home builders,” said Scott Clark, CEO of True Life.
Across from Walmart, there is talk about building on 35 acres behind town hall off Manzanita Road.
Gary Martinson, owner of Bison Homes, has owned the property since 2008.
While Bison Homes as not proposed any development there yet, the company has been in talks with town officials.
Martinson said the company had plans to build 400 to 500 homes in the area and make major improvements to Manzanita, but stepped back when the economy tanked.
“We don’t have any plans to start construction work, but we want to stay in communication with the town so when the opportunity is there we can get going,” he said.
If they were to build, Bison Homes would construct a planned community with a rustic, woodsy feel like those in Prescott and the apartment complex adjacent to town hall.
The area is already zoned for multi-family homes.
“A lot of people like to develop here because before the recession we had a good market here,” Garrett said. “We are all hoping it is coming back a little.”
The final area that could see development is in the Mazatzal Mountain Airpark northeast of the airport. Many existing homes in the area have their own airplane hangars, but a supply of lots remains unfinished.
A company has bought the project from a bank and could get it going again, putting 40 lots on the market, Garrett said.