Spring brought a dazzling crop of wildflowers to southern Arizona, and it's fostered the growth of something else — a spurt in the building of new homes throughout Northwest Tucson.

John Strobeck of Bright Futures Business Consultants in Tucson said that for years, the Northwest led the Tucson region in new home building volume, but it fell to second place with the extended southern region of Tucson taking over the lead.

"But for new home sales by area, for the last 12 months, the Northwest has had 21 percent of all new home sales," Strobeck said, "eclipsed only by the extended South at 33 percent. Twenty-one percent is a good percentage in these times and I expect the Northwest to continue to be strong."

Larry Appel, a Long Realty agent handling the Catalina Ridge development in Oro Valley for developer MK Company of Scottsdale, said that of the 45 lots initially for sale, a dozen have been sold in a 10-month period. Lots range from half acre to an acre-plus and are located at different elevations, each with unobstructed views of the Santa Catalina mountains.

"The first house was completed and occupied" several weeks ago, Appel said in April, "and four houses are scheduled to begin construction in the next 30 to 60 days."

MK Company plans on building a 3,000-square foot speculative home with a central enclosed courtyard that will serve as a model for the development, Appel said. Builders active in the project are Sombra Homes, A.F. Sterling and Dorn Homes.

In Marana, Willow Ridge on West Cortaro Farms Road is being developed by Lennar.

Steve Craddock, Lennar's Tucson division manager, said the development has one model home completed and eight other homes in various stages of construction.

"We represent 42 home sites that are generally around 6,600-square feet," Craddock said. "Buyers are choosing from five different floor plans ranging from 1,601 to 2,567-square feet in size and from 3 bedrooms/2 baths to 5 bedrooms/3 baths."

All the homes are stucco on frame with tile roofs, he added, and include granite tops in the kitchens, cherry cabinetry in the kitchen and baths, and cultured marble tops in the baths.

"Southern Marana doesn't have a lot of new home offerings in it, which makes this area unique in terms of new home choices for consumers," Craddock said. "We studied the market thoroughly and figured out a way with our cost structure to make these new homes competitive, even with resale homes out there, and still have the quality in them."

In Oro Valley, Electronic Communities Inc., is the developer of Ponticello, with Benchmark Homes serving as the builder. Mark Donatelli, director of operations for ECI/Benchmark, said the gated community totals approximately 290 acres, of which 120 acres will be left as common space and wilderness areas.

Ponticello has 86 custom lots, ranging from four to five acres in size, and 28 semi-custom lots from a quarter to a third of an acre. Six semi-custom home plans range from 2,100 to 2,800-square feet.

"We already have five completed homes, all semi-customs," Donatelli said, "and three are sold and two are models. Two other homes are under construction, with one at the drywall stage and the second just getting its roof trusses."

Donatelli noted a path was first cleared to the top of the property in 2003, but because "it is an extremely difficult piece of property to develop, with many rocks and steep grades, it was tough digging and hard to get everything in the ground."

However, he added, "It was worth the wait because of the unrivalled views. And we anticipate a good year with the uptick in activity and more people coming in to look at what we have."

The Northwest's two incorporated communities, Marana and Oro Valley, report a total of 164 permits for new homes issued thus far in 2010. Marana has processed 138 permits; Oro Valley, 26, according to building officials.

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