Every real estate project in the United States “has gone through incredible stress the last couple of years,” Cottonwood Properties president David Mehl told a gathering of real estate professionals Thursday in a show home at The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.
“We have not been immune from that stress,” said Mehl.
For a period of time, The Residences shut down sales of lots and homes just down Wild Burro Canyon from the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain hotel and resort.
Then, last spring, Mehl met Ray Sidney. Sidney, with degrees from Harvard and MIT, was employee #3 at the now-giant search engine company, Google. Sidney was taken, both by Mehl’s vision and the existing development on Dove Mountain, and by the financial opportunity. So he bought into the full project, including the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course.
With Sidney investing, “literally, we have paid off all of our bank debt,” Mehl said Thursday. “We are totally debt-free. It’s almost unheard of.”
Without debt, “we can afford to offer homes and lots at a lower price than what we could have before,” Mehl said.
The Residences is in its first phase, with 110 exclusive lots for custom homes and villas as well as 16 custom estate home sites in the shadow of the Tortolita Mountains. Mehl, invigorated by the Sidney investment, wants to the world to know about the project, and how it’s being adapted to the current climate.
The Residences now has three new home models under design. They’re smaller – 1,648, 1,919 and 2,200 square feet – than the current and still-available floor plans, which go from 1,980 to 5,400 square feet. The Residences is also giving owners flexibility on “how you can locate homes within the community,” Mehl said. And it is adding benefits with golf membership.
“We realized we need to meet the market,” Mehl said. “These are fabulous homes at a very attractive price, even in today’s market.”
Sidney was “supremely jazzed” to see a crowd at the Thursday event.
“I was really amazed right from the get-go at what David had accomplished here,” said Sidney, standing in front of a 20-foot fireplace on a cool evening. “It really strikes you as something amazing and unique.”
Later, he said, “that alone doesn’t make it something you want to get involved with as an investor. Things are very compelling on that score, too, which is why I’m here.”
Sidney, who admitted to some discomfort speaking before a crowd, said he’s “fundamentally a numbers guy. That’s what made this attractive to me. It’s a place that grabs you viscerally. And you’ll be amazed at the price points we’re able to offer.”
Sidney shared some of his story. He was working for a financial company during “difficult times” at the end of 1998. Through a mutual acquaintance, Sidney found himself hired early on by Google. He was instrumental in building the world’s best-known search engine.
“It was one of those Silicon Valley good luck stories,” he said. “You have to be the right person, but also at the right time in the right place with the right connections. It worked out well for me so far.”
Sidney retired from Google in 2003. “Now, Ray does whatever he wants to do,” Mehl said. Sidney is a philanthropist, a triathlete, an amateur pilot and a benefactor of local and national environmental causes.
“His investment” at The Residences “fits in with his sustainability and environmental issues, and hopefully with his goal of having a good return on his capital,” Mehl said.
It also helps Mehl continue with his plans for Dove Mountain, a concept born in 1984.
“My dream that started then has not changed, it continues on,” Mehl said. “It’s a celebration of the Sonoran Desert. Fundamentally, that’s what drives what we’re doing.” The Residences’ access to golf, hiking on Tortolita Mountain trails and the hotel and its amenities “separates us from what exists out there,” he said. “It’s really difficult to deliver these things in the real world.”
The Ritz-Carlton can help “eliminate the craziness” of second- and multiple-home ownership at The Residences, Mehl said. “This is where things are taken care of for them.
“My enthusiasm for Dove Mountain and the Ritz-Carlton hasn’t been dented by a few tough years,” Mehl said. “Tucson doesn’t fully understand what we’re doing here, and the uniqueness of the community.”