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Owner of Tehaleh, Pierce County master-planned community formerly called Cascadia, chooses builders

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on June 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
June 25, 2012 5:41 pm

The owner of the master-planned community formerly known as Cascadia has chosen four companies to start building homes next month.

Newland Communities announced Monday that it has chosen Lennar, Richmond American Homes, Quadrant Homes and Benjamin Ryan Communities to exclusively build at Tehaleh, on the Bonney Lake plateau. A fifth company, which has not yet been named, will build active adult housing for people over 55.

Together, the builders will have exclusive rights to the first 350 lots in Tehaleh.

“We’re very honored to have this group of builders in the community,” Newland vice president Scott Jones said. “It’s a mix that we were looking for.”

Ground-breaking will begin in July, with the first homes available for pre-sale this summer ahead of the official neighborhood opening this fall. A willingness to meet such an aggressive schedule was one of the top criteria Newland used to choose from the 14 builders who asked to be considered.

“Not everyone in the market agrees that it’s ready for something like this — some think we’re ahead of the curve,” Jones said.

New home permits in Pierce County have been steadily increasing this year, and builders are reporting more activity. But worry over the nascent sector recovery remains. One of Newland’s chosen builders got cold feet this spring, even after visiting other Newland communities and hearing nothing but good about working with the company.

“We backed out (a few months ago). Decided maybe it wasn’t the right move. The market’s rough and you never know what will happen,” said John Bays, general manager of Benjamin Ryan Communties, a Lakewood-based builder with 30 employees that’s on track to finish 160 homes this year.

Newland’s marketing plan for Tehaleh changed Bays’ mind. “This is a regional deal,” he said. So Benjamin Ryan Communities signed a contract to buy 41 lots over the next two years.

San Diego-based Newland is the largest privately owned developer of master-planned communities in the United States. It has 40 projects in 14 states. It bought Cascadia in 2011, after original developer Patrick Kuo lost most of it in foreclosure in 2009. Newland has taken care of deferred maintenance on the 4,200-acre site, and is building a welcome center. Six parks and 7.5 miles of trails will also be open to the public by this fall.

Newland’s selection of Lennar and Richmond American further cements those national companies into Pierce County. Quadrant Homes has long been a regional powerhouse, leaving Benjamin Ryan as the truly local builder. Jones said Lennar and Richmond’s presence in the market is a result of buying local companies, which gives their local offices a great mix of national power and intimate market knowledge.

Each builder offers a different product – houses from 1,350 square feet up to 3,300 squre feet – so Newland can attract the broadest variety of customer. “There’s never going to be one simple answer,” Jones said. “It comes down to us having the right puzzle pieces for Tehaleh.”

Newland estimates the first 350 homes, priced starting at $210,000, will create about 1,000 construction jobs over the next several years. Those jobs are welcome and a good sign, said Tiffany Speir, executive officer of the trade group Master Builders Association of Pierce County.

Choosing big companies in the first phase makes sense, she said, because they can move quickly.

“We hope that as future phases come online they’ll look at additional builders and have local guys jump into that market as well,” she said. “It’s a big enough project that we should see a variety.”

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