Small and sleepy Buckeye, AZ may not be the first place you think of when you consider huge, award-winning projects, but that’s about to change.
The eye-poppingly large-scale master planned community (the former Douglas Ranch) broke ground in late October, marking the beginning stage of what is to become a 37,000 acre site with more than 100,000 homes, 300,000 residents and 55 million square feet of commercial development. The project is expected to take 50 years to build in its entirety, with the first phase set to open in late 2024.
Translating to “land of the valley,” the name Teravalis was inspired by the neighborhood’s desert landscape that lies between the White Tank and Belmont mountain ranges – a relationship the developers plan to foster with care.
In addition to being one of the largest megaprojects Arizona has ever seen, the development claims to feature environmentally conscious design, a sign of its developer’s commitment to sustainability in the nature-rich neighborhood.
“Teravalis will be a model for forward-thinking development and over an extraordinary lifestyle built on a robust economic foundation – incorporating best practices from across our national portfolio to advance environmental priorities and technological innovations,” David O’Reilly, CEO of The Howard Hughes Corporation said in a statement.
From its origins in 2003, Its groundbreaking has been a long time coming. Here’s what the Phoenix Business Journal had to say about it 19 years ago:
“Whodathunkit? The West Valley farming will be home to just shy of a quarter of a million new … The availability of land in the West Valley and Interstate 10 are luring more growth to the sleepy little farm town.”
While it was first conceptualized almost 20 years ago, this new plan is as modern as it gets. With easy access to Phoenix via I-10 and proximity to the future I-11, it offers a wealth of growth potential for residents, businesses and investors.
What’s the history of Douglas Ranch
Buckeye really got things moving in 2003 when voters approved a plan to annex Douglas Ranch – a master-planned community across 35,000 acres in the northern portion of the city. The land was predominantly used for farming – something city leaders have been anxious to protect.
“Through its history, it has been a hub of farming activity, surrounded by miles of cropland in most directions. Only in recent years have home builders and developers started showing up,” the Business Journal wrote in 2003. “Let’s hope the future is well-thought out and built with a smart-growth model that cities and towns throughout the sprawling metro area can use.
The project was supposed to get started in 2012, but the aftershocks from the 2008 crash caused its postponement.
“We have a massive amount of development coming in that ranges from single-family starter homes to executive housing. There’s a lot of master-planned communities coming this way, too,” he said. “We’ve been adding somewhere between 3,000-4,000 single-family homes over the last few years, and now it’s just a matter of mixing that with multi-family homes – whether that’s traditional garden-style apartments, build-to-rent product or workforce housing.”
You wouldn’t expect the mayor to bad mouth the city, but he makes a convincing case for its future.
“[It’s about] the quality of life – definitely,” he said. “It’s also massive opportunity. We are a city of 640 square miles, and we’re only 13% built out. Moving to the city is like pioneering. It’s close to the built-up Phoenix Area. There are some wonderful retail opportunities coming our way. There are great transportation projects that are planned right now, too. We also have about 10,000 jobs that are in the queue right now for this area, and we’re close to doubling the number of available jobs. So just massive opportunity. We’re at the ground floor.”
The governor is pretty pumped about the mixed-use development.
“In the game of states, people vote with their feet—and Arizona is winning. Since 2015, it has welcomed over 584,000 new residents and we don’t expect that momentum to stop anytime soon,” Governor Doug Ducey told AZ Big Media. “This increases the demand for housing opportunities and Howard Hughes is answering that call.”
Who’s building the project?
The residential project is being built by the Howard Hughes Corp., which will announce builders later this year. The project was acquired from JDM Partners, led by Jerry Colangelo and El Dorado Holdings for $600-million in 2021.
Both companies are expected to stay on as joint partners in the early days of development, as Colangelo’s company retains part ownership of a neighbouring property that is slated to be the first village in the development.
This first phase, called ‘Trillium’, will host over 7,000 lots – a huge swath of homes right off the bat for Buckeye – but Howard Hughes Corp., which has an impressive portfolio of master-planned communities across the nation, is more than up to the task.
“How you live matters,” said Heath Melton, president of the Phoenix Region for Howard Hughes Corp. “Our mission is to curate vibrant communities that elevate the everyday, creating meaningful moments in great places where people can live their best lives – and thrive for generations to come.”
In an interview with ABC15, David O’Reilly, the CEO of Howard Hughes Corp. described the future area with excitement:
“We’re going to make sure that it is diverse, inclusive, and affordable across all price points,” he said. “We can give them (people who live there) connectivity to nature. We can give them great outdoor spaces, we can give them shopping, dining and entertainment and a short commute to their office right down the street in an enclosed environment that’s unparalleled anywhere else in the country.”
What about water?
It’s no secret that Arizona is in the middle of a drought, so where will all the water to support an extra 100,000 homes come from?
The site sits directly atop the Hassayampa aquifer – a naturally-occurring reservoir of groundwater. According to Howard Hughes Corp., that’s where the community’s water will come from.
But the scientific community has concerns. Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter told ABC15 that continued reliance on groundwater is unsustainable.
“When you pump groundwater excessively, you get things like land subsidence and Earth fissures, these cracks in the ground, and you can’t fix that after,” she said.
According to the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act, builders are required to provide an assured water supply that can sustain the development for at least 100 years – something that Howard Hughes Corp. has already done, claiming the Hassayampa aquifer can sufficiently support the area for that length of time.
Once sufficient water supply for a new development is demonstrated, certification is granted by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). According to ADWR records, the first phase has received certification.
However, there are concerns that the basin may not be as plentiful as previously thought. A report from the Kyl Center for Water Policy released in May 2021 showed a possibility that the groundwater basin has depleted and is considerably less than ADWR currently estimates.
Despite concerns from the scientific community, Howard Hughes Corp. says it knows how to operate sustainably in the desert, and has cited Summerlin, its master-planned community in Las Vegas as an example. Here’s what more of what O’Reilly, CEO of Howard Hughes Corp. had to say about the real estate:
“We’ve been ahead of the curve and been building much further beyond just the local regulations, saving over [100 million] gallons of water a year in Summerlin. We’re going to employ those exact same technologies.”
For more information and the latest updates, visit teravalis.com