Sept. 1, 2004 - GETTING AROUND: The Empire Companies, a major land developer in Southern California, has purchased the 790-acre Saguaro Springs property in Marana from developer Best Associates for $25 million.

Saguaro Springs, a proposed development of 2,500 homes bounded roughly by Lambert Lane on the north, Twin Peaks Road on the south, Airline Drive on the west and Beacon Peak to the east, was inititally introduced in 1997, but to date no construction has ever taken place.

In behalf of Empire, the Planning Center has submitted a specific plan calling for the construction of a mix of townhomes and single-family residences totaling between 1,100 and 1,200 units on 217 acres, or about 28 percent of the land, in the western portion of the development.

The project includes from 400 to 700 units in an age restricted area, plans to build a 29-acre park with several sports fields, a dog park, playground equipment, benches, ramadas and restrooms and the dedication of 10 acres to the Marana Unified School District for a future school.

Nineteen acres at the southwest corner of the project would be traded to the town for easements along Cement Plant Road as a buffer with the Happy Acres subdivision, Airline Drive would be extended from where the road turns at Lambert to serve a water storage tank, Lambert would be widened from two to four lanes from Airline Drive to Silverbell and Twin Peaks Road would be widened from two to four lanes from Cement Plant Road to the project's boundary, a distance of about a mile and a half.

Jack Neubeck, a Planning Center principal, said the project has been in and out of contract with from five to six potential developers unable to come to grips with the estimated $16 million cost of bringing infrastructure in from over the Tucson Mountains and putting in sewer lines to connect with the Continental Ranch pumping plant east of Saguaro Springs.

Marana has been anxious to see the project succeed because of the nearly $6 million in impact fees it will bring in to help finance the town's share of the $14.5 million Twin Peaks-Linda Vista I-10 interchange.

Saguaro Springs will cost the developer nearly $2,500 per unit in impact fees.

Residents have been invited to review the plan at a 6 p.m. meeting Sept. 2 in the Sunflower Village Center at Continental Ranch, 9401 N. Sunflower Park Drive.

Previous attempts to develop the property have been met with opposition from residents in the 170-acre Happy Acres subdivision to the north who feared the impacts of heavier traffic through their area via Airline Road, a narrow two-lane road that runs through the neighborhood.

Arizona Portland Cement also expressed concerns three years ago that encroachment from Saguaro Springs, about two miles southwest of the company's plant and two miles northeast of its quarry, could put an end to its plant operations.

Arizona Portland Cement concerns were successfully addressed about two months ago, Neubeck said.

The Empire Companies, founded by Jim Previti, has been primarily involved in the Southern California area as well as Flagstaff. Its projects include four master planned communities, golf courses and commercial development.

Among other area developments, Continental Ranch Development LLC, formerly Arizona Pavilions Development LLC, plans to break ground by November for 260,000 square feet of retail space within the Arizona Pavilions power center at Arizona Pavilions Drive and Cortaro Road in Marana.

The project, on 30 acres in the west portion of the 70-acre power center, would include such future tenants as Marshall's Discount Stores, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Petco, all of whom would occupy about 30,000 square feet, Pier 1, 11,000 square feet, Famous Footwear, about about 8,000 square feet and Hallmark Cards, about 4,000 square feet, said Greg Wexler, Continental Ranch Development partner.

At the same time, infrastructure work is scheduled to begin on a separate 18-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Silverbell Road and Cortaro on the west side of the Santa Cruz River.

Possible tenants here include Fletcher Tire, Auto Zone, M&I Bank, Remax Realty and Pizza Hut, Wexler said

The 18-acres initially were part of a 40-acre parcel of which 22 acres were donated to Marana for a park.

Another 2.5 acres were included in a trade for the construction of the town's proposed 15,000 square-foot library. Also included in plans for the development of this property are a five building, 26,000 square-foot condominium office complex on 2.5 acres and a 6,000 square-foot preschool and 3,000 square-foot playground on one acre.

At the southeast corner of Twin Peaks and Coachline roads, Coachline Shops LLC is developing about 10,000 square feet of retail area in two buildings to include Comet Cleaners with 1,169 square feet, Coachline Nail and Spa, 1,169 square feet and Lady's Workout Express, 1,516 square feet.

All are scheduled to open in October, said Justin Bassett, managing member of the partnership.

In the Continental Commerce Business Park, where 80 percent of the first of three 26,000 square-foot buildings has been leased, new tenants include the Scarritt Group, international conference planners, which has taken 2,600 square feet in a move from 5297 W. Hematite, A &A Garage Doors, 1,800 square feet, and Arizona Fine Aggregate, sellers of mining equipment, which will occupy 1,800 square feet with a move in date set for October, said Brand Eigen, managing owner of the Continental Commerce Park LLC.

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