State Trust Land

This Google Earth screen shot shows the location of the State Trust Land in Ahwatukee bordered in red. The South Mountain Freeway is at the bottom of the area, which runs along Chandler Boulevard between 19th and 27th avenues.  While most of it is zoned for single-family houses, the lower southeast corner is zoned for two-story and four-story condo and apartment buildings.

At least 1,050 homes can be built on the 373.5-acre stretch of State Trust Land in Ahwatukee that will go on the auction block within the next few months, according to the appraisal performed by the Arizona Land Department.

The appraisal helped the state Land Department set a starting bid of $105 million for the land –located along Chandler Boulevard between 19th and 27th avenues – whenever it holds an auction.

No auction date has been set yet, though a Land Department official told the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee in December that it likely will occur this spring or early summer. The date will be set when the department begins a 10-week advertising period.

As one of the largest untouched pieces of land closest to central Phoenix currently for sale, developers are likely to be flocking to that auction – especially since the land already is zoned for both residential and multi-family development.

A study released last month by Land Advisors Organization in Phoenix showed that much of the Valley’s non-tribal open land that could be developed is now located in the far reaches of the West Valley and in Pinal County, though there are hundreds of available acres, much of it State Trust Land, in the far East Valley as well.

Moreover, having one huge piece of land available for auction that could be bought by one developer fits a growing trend identified by Land Advisors Organization.

Its study found that developers are increasingly buying huge chunks of land rather than taking a more incremental approach because of the skyrocketing demand for homes and apartments fueled by the relentless migration of out-of-state buyers and renters to the Phoenix Metro region. Maricopa County’s population rose from 2.1 million in 1990 to a current 4.4 million and is projected to hit 4.7 million in three years.

The Trust Land in Ahwatukee would host the biggest home construction project the community has seen in a decade. The most recent large home development here has been Blandford Homes’ new Palma Brisa community on Desert Foothills Parkway near Frye Road. Blandford has 197 homes on the 63-acre parcel it bought from Tempe Union High School District for $23 million in 2017.

Among slightly less recent developments in Ahwatukee have been Foothills Reserve, a 320-acre tract with 611 residential lots; Calabria, a 106-acre tract where 26 homes have been built and another 48 custom lots are available; and Promontory at Foothills West, a 110-lot subdivision.

The state appraisal of the Trust Land took note of those recent housing projects, stating “there has been an extremely limited supply of vacant land in The Foothills, including relatively small parcels zoned for commercial use, a small site designated for church use, and a near 63-acre site that has historically been contemplated for development of a high school” (Palma Brisa). 

It also said 135 acres of open land surrounding Promontory is the only other large tract in Ahwatukee available for development, but that most of it has “limited developmental potential” because it “is situated on the steep slopes of South Mountain.”

The appraisal says Ahwatukee “remains a highly favorable residential location for the foreseeable future” because of its “highly desirable attributes” that include numerous amenities, proximity to employment and retail centers via the community’s access to a well-developed freeway system and a “well-above-average demographic.”

All these factors should make the State Trust Land a magnet for developers.

Of the 373 acres on the site, 300 can be developed since the rest is within neighboring rights-of-way as well as the freeway.

Another 18 acres comprise washes, though the appraisal said the area poses no special flood hazards. It does note, however, “a variety of stormwater improvements will be required upon future development.”

While the appraiser did not have a soil study, he states, “Based on single-family residential subdivision development on adjacent land, there do not appear to be any atypical or adverse soil conditions which would prohibit single-family residential development on the subject. 

“The opinion of value is predicated on the assumption there are no adverse soil conditions which would prohibit development of the subject with uses consistent with zoning (mostly single-family residential).”

He adds that he has made “extraordinary assumptions” that the land poses neither geological not environmental obstacles to development.

The appraisal says that while the full extent of additional roadway improvements that will be needed is unknown, “there will at least be the requirement to construct concrete curbs, gutters and sidewalks, along with streetlights, and possibly a requirement to construct an additional northbound lane of asphalt, with the existing northbound lane converted into a continuous turn lane.”

The appraisal also notes the absence of freeway sound walls along 3,240 feet of land abutting it and states, “Therefore, future development of the subject property with uses allowed by zoning (predominately residential), will likely necessitate construction of some type of sound attenuation wall to mitigate the freeway traffic noise.”

It says that of the total developable acreage, the city is requiring that 12 acres be set aside for a year after the final subdivision plat is filed in case a school district wants to build a school there.

The appraisal also notes that 44 acres zoned for apartments or condos and another 11 acres zoned commercial that are all currently in the southeast corner of the tract could be relocated elsewhere within the overall parcel by a routine administrative amendment to the tract’s overall zoning.

However, it stresses that “multi-family oriented development is considered to be unlikely” and that “single-family residential oriented use appears to be the most profitable use of the vast majority, if not all, of the net land area” with the maximum allowable density of 3.5 units per acre.

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