Arizona Daily Star
Havens| Tucson Foothills
Cleared to Tee Off or Take Off
By PAUL SMALERA
THE Hohokams were probably the first to turn the foothills of North Tucson into a second home. Two millenniums ago, they spent their summers gathering cactus pears and mesquite beans, anthropologists say, just north of the basin where the city of Tucson was founded in 1775.
In more recent years, the foothills and the areas adjacent to the north have been rediscovered, you might say, by second-home owners who are finding that the Hohokams were onto something. Depending on the neighborhood, real estate agents estimate that 10 to 40 percent of the residents in North Tucson are second-home owners.
If, like Buck Clippard, you fly but have trouble finding airplane parking, you might consider requesting permission to land at La Cholla Airpark, a community 20 miles north of downtown Tucson. The Clippards have a second home there — and a two-plane hangar on a taxiway (or, as the earthbound might call it, a road), right off the airpark’s main drag, a 4,500-foot landing strip.
“About every six months or year, we sponsor a fly-in pancake breakfast where about 300 pilots fly their little airplanes in, park on the street, and we play Dixieland jazz,” Mr. Clippard said. When Mr. Clippard, a former airline pilot who retired from Pan American in 1991, and his wife, Carol, settled in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., they often flew their vintage Beechcraft to visit Mr. Clippard’s father, who lived in Green Valley, Ariz. But because the local public airstrip was in an inconvenient location, the Clippards decided to build on land they’d bought in La Cholla.
The Clippards completed their self-designed home in 1999. Their aircraft-size version of a detached garage also houses a workshop and a second-floor guest suite.
If your concept of flying doesn’t involve starting your own engine, though, you may find it convenient that the developments around the Santa Catalina foothills are 20 minutes closer to downtown than La Cholla is, and often feature more amenities like golf courses and tennis courts.
Paul and Marianne Pellegrino, however, found they preferred living in a foothills development without golf — Pima Canyon. Their previous house in Tucson was right on a fairway. “When the lawnmowers are going off at 5 o’clock in the morning, getting the course ready, you don’t like it,” Mr. Pellegrino said. “And when a golf ball comes crashing through your window, you don’t like it.”
Many part-time residents do enjoy living right off the courses, however, according to John Schneider, a real estate agent who specializes in the foothills. He estimated that up to half the houses in newer developments like La Paloma and Ventana Canyon are bought as second homes.
Tucson has long been known as a snowbird destination, where Midwesterners like the Pellegrinos, from Chicago, come to escape the winters.
The Santa Catalina and Tortolita Mountains, natural boundaries to the north that are full of prickly cactuses and wild desert creatures, have halted the sprawl that affects the east and west sides of Tucson, creating a natural enclave where part-time residents say they feel at home.
North Tucson is also becoming the home of the city’s high-end shopping. A once dusty intersection of North Campbell Avenue and East Skyline Drive has become a town square for those who live in the foothills.
La Encantada shopping center opened on one corner of the intersection in 2003, to some skepticism. Mr. Schneider said he initially wondered who would shop at La Encantada, which is anchored by AJ’s Fine Foods and a Tiffany store. Mr. Pellegrino, who is semiretired from the food distribution business, said he had noticed that people treated food displays as if they were exhibitions at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Less than four years later, the other three lots have spawned their own shopping centers, and Campbell Avenue’s commercial district has grown northward. The Foothills Mall, on Oracle Road, has played a similar role near the airpark.
The Nederlander Producing Company of America is in the third season of the “Broadway in Tucson” series, bringing musicals like “Rent” and “Evita” to downtown.
Although national chain restaurants have made inroads in the new shopping plazas, so have local favorites like Mosaic Cafe Dos, which is run by the daughter of the owners of Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe, one of Tucson’s best-known Tex-Mex restaurants.
Some residents of North Tucson are skeptical about whether other desert communities offer the same lifestyle as theirs. “Phoenix is becoming mini-L.A., with all the freeways,” Mr. Pellegrino said.
About 15 percent of residents in La Cholla join the Clippards in making it a second home, said Peggy A. Fuenning, a real estate agent who lives in La Cholla. The Clippards are certain that there are few places in Arizona that could give them their current arrangement. Since they keep their planes at a public airstrip while in Fort Lauderdale, they often put their planes, and themselves, in Tucson during hurricane season.
Infrastructure, services and shopping are the key to the foothills’ attractiveness. Since there are few large lots left, congestion is not likely to develop along River Road and Skyline Drive, the region’s main east-west roads, real estate agents say, though crossing into downtown can be an ordeal.
Near the airpark, there are still undeveloped spaces that once defined the entire north side of town.
Without a comprehensive freeway system, it’s tough to get to other areas of Tucson, creating an enclave effect that some residents love but others hate.
Residents also worry that subdivisions of 10-acre lots in the old foothills area immediately south of River Road and the smaller lots at newer developments will disfigure the views that attracted so many of them in the first place. As Mr. Schneider put it, “What’s rare these days is not a hillside with a beautiful mansion built into it, but a hillside with no mansion at all.”
As in just about every rapidly growing desert community in Arizona, there are issues involving land and water use.
The Real Estate Market
Condos as investment properties are out. Mr. Schneider said that more than 800 have become available in the North Tucson area in the last year and a half, flooding what was once a speculative market. That makes buying for the long term more affordable, with new two-bedroom units available for less than $200,000.
Single-family home sales in the foothills slowed in mid-2006, Mr. Schneider said, but he added that there has since been a rebound. He also said that asking prices had dipped recently, but sellers had adjusted to the market and homes were now selling for 96 percent of listing prices.
Single-family houses under $500,000 are rare but do exist. Expect to pay a premium to be near a golf course or an airstrip. Million-dollar houses in Tucson, once unthinkable, have become common, and houses costing well over $2 million are abundant at newer developments like Pima Canyon.
Lay of the Land
POPULATION About 60,000 people live in the foothills and another 45,000 live around La Cholla Airpark.
SIZE About 42 square miles in the foothills and 50 square miles around nearby La Cholla.
WHO’S BUYING Baby boomers from cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles who are planning for a retirement that allows them to enjoy the culture and sophistication of life near an urban core.
GETTING THERE Many flights from the East Coast connect to Tucson International Airport through Chicago, Dallas or elsewhere. There are some nonstop flights from New York, and most service from the West Coast is direct. Tucson is a stop on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited route.
WHILE YOU’RE LOOKING The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa (3800 East Sunrise Drive, 520-742-6000; www.westinlapalomaresort.com) is nestled in the Tucson foothills, and rooms typically start at $299 a night. There is also a Holiday Inn Express (10150 North Oracle Road, 520-202-4000; www.hiexpress.com) in Oro Valley, near La Cholla, where rooms start at $129 a night.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Active vs. Closed
Days of Inventory
TUCSON PRICE RECORD
$4.95M home sets a Tucson price record
By Shelley Shelton
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.19.2007
A Northwest Side home set a new price record for the Tucson Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service this week when it was purchased for $4.95 million.
It beat a previous price record of $4.8 million that was set in March, said Tanya Menoni, marketing and communications manager for MLS.
The records date to 1991, when MLS began collecting and tracking that kind of data, she said.
The 5,300-square-foot home is in Saguaro Ranch, north of West Tangerine and North Thornydale roads. It’s on 4.157 acres and has three bedrooms, five bathrooms, four fireplaces, a pool and spa and a three-car garage.
It was the 67th Tucson-area home this year to sell for $1 million or more through MLS, Menoni said.
Records filed at the Pima County Recorder’s Office show the buyers as Bettina H. and Robert M. Buchan. They were represented by Long Realty Co.
The buyers have asked the real estate agents to release no publicity about the home, said Julia Wetterer, a Windermere Distinctive Homes and Land real estate agent who, with fellow agent Nikki Mehalic-Halle, represented the seller in the deal.
Though this price sets a record for the MLS, there are other homes in Tucson that sell in the same price range that we never hear about because they are privately commissioned to be built, she said.
Even so, two other homes remain for sale with similar asking prices to this one’s. It was listed at $5.95 million before it sold. The other two homes are listed at $5.9 million and $6 million.
“It’s great for Tucson to have this. It might be typical for Scottsdale, but it’s not been typical for Tucson,” Wetterer said.
The seller was Ranheim Development Group, whose president is former pro-hockey player Paul Ranheim. He could not be reached for comment.
Robin Sue Kaiserman, a Long agent who sold a $4.2 million home last year — a record at the time — said Tucson is on track to sell about the same number of homes or more in the upper price range.
She attributes the steadiness of the high-end real estate market to the fact that the stock market is doing well. In the high-end price range, interest rates don’t matter as much as a buyer’s stock portfolio, she said.
And it’s pretty common for high-end buyers and sellers to work through MLS, she said.
We keep hearing and reading in the news about how the housing market is taking a breather . . . well, the homesite market is making up the difference – WAY making up the difference! Since early last year I’ve been very concerned about the shortage of available land/lots for sale. It’s the old supply and demand theory – we have the demand but no supply. And, whether it’s concrete or flu vaccine, when you’re short the price goes up. The average sales price in January 2005 was $220,000. The average sales price last month was $366,000. That’s a 65% increase . . . in just ONE year! Here’s the kicker – 69 lots sold last January while only 40 sold last month. Demand, no supply = $$$$$$. The brunt of those sales were in the Northwest and North areas.. There were 12 sales Northwest at an average price of $333,000 (and 106 average days on market) and 9 sales in the Catalina Foothills area with $546,000 average sales price (43 DOM). As I study the market each day I’ve been noticing in the past 30 days that there have been regular price reductions in the Northwest area. That is not surprising since there are 182 lots for sale with an average listed price of nearly $550,000 – and only 39 lots sold over $500,000 for all of 2005! It will be very interesting to see how February unfolds since 76 lots sold last February, averaging $223,000. I’m almost afraid to find out! (Statistics from Tucson MLS, for areas north, northeast, northwest, central, east, southeast and west.)
Economic and Business Research
Excerpts from Arizona’s Economy, published quarterly by the Economic and Business Research Center at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.
During the next 30 years, Arizona will add another 8.5 million residents to the 6 million-plus who already call Arizona home. That will boost Arizona’s population to more than today’s Illinois, the fifth largest state.
This is latest forecast from Eller College on the long term, 30-year outlook for the State of Arizona. It is more of a projection than a forecast, and is best described as the most likely of all possible paths that the state’s economy might take. As such, it is an unbiased projection derived from the state’s historical growth, current attributes, and competitive position.
Arizona’s growth is multi-faceted and unique, comparable only to Florida and Nevada; all three are long-standing high-growth states. The challenge to plan for and accommodate the tremendous growth yet to come has never been greater. It is in this sense that Arizona likely will continue to be “overpopulated,” and its economy and infrastructure “underdeveloped,” according to the forecast.
We Hit 1 Million Today
Population milestone got here before anyone thought it would.
Our population was supposed to hit 1 million in 2009. Instead, Pima County’s millionth resident arrives today.
That’s the prediction of Tucson planning administrator David Taylor, who studies census numbers, building permits, household sizes, vacancy rates, school enrollments, car registrations, Medicare records and reams of other data to come up with his widely respected population prophecies.
He knows that someone moves to Pima County every nine minutes, while someone else moves out every 15 minutes. One person is born every 41 minutes and another dies every 67 minutes.
State’s growth is fueled by jobs, tourism, housing
More-affordable housing, better wages, more state spending on tourism and economic development, and a huge influx of Californians.
Those are the major factors that pushed Arizona’s growth rate over Nevada’s for the first time in nearly 20 years, experts say.
Nevada, long the country’s fastest-growing state, came in second to Arizona in both 2005 and 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported recently.
Our state’s pace of growth accelerated in recent years and in 2005 and 2006 hit its highest rate in a decade. Nevada’s growth rate sagged in the same period, settling at 3.5 percent last year, census figures show.
Next week, Gov. Janet Napolitano will release a plan for managing the state’s growth when she issues her proposed state budget and gives her annual State of the State address.
Wellness tourism wins local support
If the city, a pair of developers and Dr. Andrew Weil have their way, Tucson may be on its way to solidifying its leadership as an international destination for health and wellness.
Weil and the others have proposed to city officials building an education center dedicated to integrative medicine as a tourist attraction Downtown.
If such a center were built it would “position Tucson as a wellness center in the world,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general. “I couldn’t be more enthusiastic.”
Carmona himself is invested in the industry – he was recently named vice president of Canyon Ranch, a Tucson-based wellness company with a resort on the Northeast Side. The other major local wellness center is Miraval Life in Balance Tucson Resort & Spa, in Catalina.