By Richard Smith, Independent Newsmedia
When describing his first real estate project in nearly two decades, Todd Wood cannot help but revisit his previous business venture.
Mr. Wood recently founded rental developer Christopher Todd Collections after selling Apline Valley, his Mesa-based organic bakery of 18 years.
With decades of real estate experience prior to owning the bakery, he was looking to debut a cutting-age type of rental community and selected a untapped market to unveil the concept.
Christopher Todd Collections on Greenway has an anti-ground breaking of sorts last week on the southwest corner of Litchfield and Greenway roads in Surprise. The community across the street from the Surprise Civic Center will inaugurate the Gilbert-based company’s concept of upscale “horizontal rental communities.”
“All the rental product I see in the market looks the same to me. It’s like white bread,” Mr. Wood said. “These are single-story detached homes. When the Surprise saw that, they saw our vision.”
Mr. Wood said construction of the rentals will begin in the next 30 days. Models and the leasing office should open in September or October with construction wrapping in December.
The gated community will have 136 single-family rentals ranging from 687 square feet to 1,039 square feet. Each will have a private, landscaped back yards and a front yard.
Smart home technology will be built into each unit, including a doorbell camera, keyless entry and internet connectivity. The landscaped community includes a pool and a park with dog washing station.
“This is a unique development offering in the city of Surprise. However this type of development has occurred in other communities such as Tempe and Chandler. Also this developer has a sister project currently under construction in the city of Peoria,” stated Surprise Community Development Director Eric Fitzer in an email.
“What is unique about this development to Surprise is that currently the vast majority of the rental market is that of single family homes. While there is an offering of multi-family apartments, a minimal amount of condominiums and age-restricted multi-family, this project is the first multi-family single-level non-age-restricted offering in the market.”
Rather than a ground breaking March 29, the developer announced a community give-back program in conjunction with Veterans Directory called A New Lease on Life. The company will identify a deserving veteran and their family to receive free rent for the first year and reduced rent for the next two.
This partnership will grow as the company does and open opportunities for assistance to more veterans.
“We saw that is was close to the military base and thought, ‘what is a better way to honor veterans,’” Mr. Wood said. “We want them to be able to practice self reliance.”
Two age groups in particular seem likely to have interest in rentals. Mr. Wood said millennials are delaying marriage more often than not and seem to prefer a plug and play lifestyle.
On the flip side, adults in their 50s and early 60s are often done raising their children but not ready to retire. Some people in this age group are ready to downsize and shed the maintenance responsibilities of a home.
“When we developed it, people said this kind of project belongs in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley,” Mr. Wood said. “We felt like there’s a lot of synergy with what’s going on in the city of Surprise.”
Mr. Fitzer stated that traffic, schools and open space concerns arose during the initial public outreach and the developer was able to address those issues. He said there were no formal objections during the public hearings at the Planning and Zoning Commission or City Council.
The development should fit in nicely across the street from a civic center ready to take off — with Ottawa University Arizona, employment, restaurant and retail projects on the way.
“As part of this plan you need 24/7 activation within and around the City Center development to support future commercial, office, medical and employment. To activate the City Center there needs to be a multitude of housing options including high density and medium density that include attached and detached options, for rent options and purchase options,” Mr. Fitzer stated.
Mr. Wood said the company has other sites in mind but has not purchased any at this point. This includes a property in the Marley Park development where a legal firm representing the developer led a preliminary information session in February — and saw more than 100 Marley Park residents show up in opposition of the early concept.
Mr. Wood said he cannot discuss any projects on land his company does not own. But he said the Greenway project will give the company a chance to refine its new rental product before running with the concept.
“Every week we continue to improve and tweak the project so that it will be like a resort,” he said. “Surprise is the first town to receive this an this is not just an Arizona concept. This will be a national rollout.”