Rancho Mercado work starts, but homes are years away

Among those attending the Rancho Mercado groundbreaking April 4 in Surprise were, from left: Jeff Blilie of Beus Gilbert PLLC; Troy Wahlberg of William Lyon Homes; Tricia Patton of William Lyon and LVA Planning; Surprise Councilman Roland Winters; Julie Collins of WIlliam Lyon; Ted Northrop of Atwell Engineering; Surprise Councilman Todd Tande; Surprise Councilman Skip Hall; Fil Luna and Bryan Cazier of William Lyon; and Terry Lowe, City of Surprise director of Water Resource Management. [Submitted Photo]
By Richard Smith, Independent Newsmedia

A typical groundbreaking for a development is usually the sign that new homes in a new community are on the way, and fairly soon.

But Rancho Mercado is not a typical development or situation. The large scale development in northwest Surprise is two years away from showcasing models, said Troy Wahlberg, director of land acquisition for the developer, William Lyon Homes.

Simply put, there is no “there,” there right now. The area east of 163rd Avenue in the vicinity of Happy Valley and Jomax roads has nothing resembling conventional infrastructure.

“There wasn’t even a road there. They had to put a road in to get to the place where they’re going to build the homes. So that should be interesting. It’s going to take them a year or year and a half to build the roads,” said Councilman Roland Winters, who represents that area.

So the April 4 groundbreaking was more of a signal that the infrastructure is coming. William Lyon will work on more than turning the Earth and roads within the community.

The developer agreed to activate Happy Valley Road beyond its borders. Before homes go in Happy Valley will provide the desperately needed east-west option in this area north of Grand Avenue with one lane in each direction from 163rd Avenue to Happy Valley’s current western terminus in the Rancho Cabrillo development.
Other developments planned in the area, like Verdugo, Tierra Verde and Altamira are waiting on this connection.

“This situation is very unique due to the lack of infrastructure in the area but William Lyon believes in the region and is willing to make a significant investment. Without the cooperation and effort of the city, the process could have been delayed significantly longer,” Mr. Wahlberg stated in an email.

Once home construction begins in Rancho Mercado, it will not stop for a while. Phase I will be developed by William Lyon and have more than 1,900 homes at build out.

The balance of the master planned community will provide about 2,800 more homes along with a fire station site, two school sites, along with three regional parks and trails to serve about 12,000 residents.

“With the added infrastructure, Rancho Mercado will become the center of a new focal point for development. The Northwest Valley currently has limited opportunity for vast development due to similar infrastructure restrictions. We believe that the unique desert foothills location coupled with excellent access to freeways, jobs and entertainment will provide buyers a great opportunity to own a home in an emerging submarket,” Mr. Wahlberg’s email stated.

He also stated that William Lyon has taken extensive steps to salvage any possible native trees on the site that can be replanted throughout the development. That goal is to have these trees keep the history of the desert alive for future generations.

“That’s exciting out there. You know they saved 200 trees. They’ve got a little nursery there with all the trees they saved,” Councilman Skip Hall said.

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