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Mattamy project in Surprise Civic Center moves to council

Posted 6/4/17

An artists’ rendering of proposed single family detatched homes by Mattamy in Surprise Civic Center. By Richard Smith

Independent Newsmedia

The first housing development planned for the …

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Mattamy project in Surprise Civic Center moves to council

An artists’ rendering of proposed single family detatched homes by Mattamy in Surprise Civic Center.
By Richard Smith
Independent Newsmedia

The first housing development planned for the Surprise Civic Center area has been modified and put into context and is now waiting on the vote of the City Council during its 6:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday, June 6 to become a reality.

More than one member of the Planning and Zoning Commission said they entered the May 20 meeting intending to vote against recommending the community proposed by Mattamy Homes west of Litchfield Road and north of Statler Boulevard and Paradise Lane as it winds toward the Civic Center buildings.

Chairman Ken Chapman said he was leaning that way, but this meeting was the first time hearing the Surprise Center Development Corporation’s perspective on putting together the puzzle of the largely undeveloped city center.

Mr. Chapman and commission vice chair Matthew Keating credited the presentation of SCDC representative Scott Phillips for allaying their concerns about the lower density of the project and the number of detatched single family homes planned on what is envisioned as a more vertical downtown area with urban style housing.

“I came here tonight with a lot of concerns and questions on the project and was prepared to vote no based solely upon what I didn’t know and what I was fearful of,” Mr. Keating said. “Mr. Phillips’ presentation did a lot to alleviate almost every fear I had. In the future, I would love for you to create a conceptual map of what Scott presented to us tonight. We know that can change as conditions change. It would be helpful for me to show to the residents I talk to on a daily basis.”

During the meeting, Mr. Phillips said said the Mattamy Homes development features detatched homes, which SCDC originally wanted no part of. The overall housing density of 7.4 dwelling units per acre met previous standards for the downtown, but not the revised requirements of 10 units per acre.

The discovery of a revised Planned Area Development document led to the commission tabling this proposal Dec. 15 and city officials negotiating with SCDC and Mattamy for most of five months.

All that aside, the Mattamy project will be the first housing downtown and one of the first projects on a parcel that remains empty except for Surprise governmental and recreation facilities, a small restaurant row along Bell and a smattering of medical buildings south of Statler.

Mr. Phillips said he sees this development as a linchpin to unlock interest in the rest of the city center.

“In order to create some momentum, we need to start with something that is dynamic, that has ingenuity to it, but also has the chance to be successful in this market,” Mr. Phillips said. “We can’t go forward with a product the market doesn’t use. That would be an albatross around our necks.”

Our goal is to bring the best of class to this property because if we don’t bring the best of class nothing else works. Whatever happens here sets the tone. If we don’t pick the right partner it becomes that more difficult for us to gain that,” Mr. Phillips said. “Mattamy does their homework better than any developer we’ve worked with.”

Land north of Statler Boulevard is pictured Dec. 15, 2016 at Surprise Civic Center in Surprise. If the application is approved, this land will consist of 420 residential lots.

Surprise Community Development Director Eric Fitzer said the day before the December hearing, the city discovered a second PAD document. The city and the property owner were working off the same document for 15 years.

The new document increased minimum density requirements from 5 to 10 dwelling units per acre and did not allow for single family detached units, which Mr. Fitzer said was a sticking point. Negotiations have produced the following compromises and changes.

• An amendment, which does not lower the overall density, but allows single family detatched unit. Mr. Fitzer said the change is consistent with the vision of the city center.

• The addition some modern architectural styles to the basic Mediterranean designs required.

• Mattamy would no longer build a gated community and its streets will be public.

“Staff had concerns and I think others had concerns about the interconnectivity of the development,” Mr. Fitzer said.

• The agreement pushes for more verticality. After selling its 207th home, Mattamy will complete a market study to examine the viability of third story options — to add to the detatched, two-house attached and two story options it will offer at the start. Mattamy can start down this path earlier if it chooses to, in the fourth phase. The southern portion will be developed last, as the fifth phase, and will have to come back for its own plat.

“The idea is to provide some flexibility. Mattamy’s goal has always been to drive some density here but they want to start with something that is feasible,” said Brian Greathouse, an attorney with Phoenix-based firm Burch & Cracchiolo.

• To meet density requirements, the Mattamy development of 56 acres will be combined with a 22-acre strip along Litchfield Road, that does not have a developer attached. This future development will have a density requirement of 15 dwelling units per acre to bring the total 78acre parcel up to 10 units.

Former councilman Leo Mankiewicz, a member of the General Plan 2035 Advisory Committee in its early months, submitted a letter to be read before the presentation.

In it, he detailed his opposition to the project’s single family detatched homes, stating they are similar to other new developments in Surprise. He also stated the Mattamy design would inhibit auto free pedestrian walking areas.

“The Mattamy Homes at Surprise Center is merely a further spreading ofsuburban sprawl onto what should be our downtown. There is nothing imaginative or creative about this gated development. In fact, you won’t be able to tell that there is a downtown west of Litchfield because the roofs will simply spread across it in continuity from the bedroom community across the street,” read an excerpt from his letter.

Commission member Mitchell Rosenbaum was also on the general plan committee and said this development proposal matches the committee’s intent as far as the creation of a downtown district.

Mr. Phillips said he does not want the next residential communities after this to offer detatched homes. The goal, he said is for density on the rest of this property to be at least 15 to 20 units per acre.

Commissioner Dennis Bash said this is the right project at the right time. He recently moved to Surprise from a small town in Ohio.

“As we know, across the country downtowns are dying. Even the shopping centers are having a tough time,” Mr. Bash said. “What I heard today is in fact the anchors we’re going to need in this area if we’re going to make it.”

Land to the southwest around the Ottawa University campus looks like a prime spot for more dense, more vertical places to live in the future, Mr. Phillips said. For now, that area’s future is flexible.

While this development will bring in more cars, he said proximity and walking distance is important at the Mattamy site. Mr. Phillips said studies show most people are willing to walk a quarter to a half mile.

The development would be designed with wide sidewalks, double rows of trees, pedestrian shade areas and places to sit. And, he said, it is within a half mile of City Hall, Ottawa’s campus, the Bell Road restaurants and the medical buildings.

“The key residential piece is within walking distance of all those areas. If you’re in an urban area, there is no better situation than to be within walking distance of all those land uses. That is a tremendous asset and a reason why the location here is keyto the next phase,” Mr. Phillips said. “If you talk to retailers, one of they key components in locating is, Where’s the residential?”

Surprise Planner Hobart Wingard said Mattamy officials are working with Dysart Unified School District on an agreement and looking into charter schools as well.

Toronto-based Mattamy Homes is one of the largest private homebuilders in North America. Mr. Phillips said Mattamy has designed products specifically for Surprise Civic Center. The builder completed a community in Marley Park.

“Much of what you spoke about makes sense. It appears you’re bidding a lot with Mattamy Homes in order to look at the future success of your projects,” Mr. Chapman said.