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SPECIAL REPORT 2018

THE REGION’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE

RANCHO S A H U A R I TA CREATING A LIFESTYLE FOR ITS RESIDENTS

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PHOTO: AMY HASKELL

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PHOTOS: DAVID SANDERS

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Focus on Lifestyle

Rancho Sahuarita ‘Creating Connections’ for its Residents By Christy Krueger More than 20 years ago, Bob Sharpe had a distinct vision for the land he was acquiring that would ultimately become Rancho Sahuarita. “Our promise is simple. We are creating a better life in Rancho Sahuarita, and we are dedicated to fulfilling that promise every day,” said Sharpe of the growing community 20 minutes south of Tucson where 18,000 residents now live. Rancho Sahuarita makes up more than half the population of the Town of Sahuarita, which is at about 30,000. What Sharpe had in mind was creating a “special place” where families would live and experience a quality of life they couldn’t find elsewhere. “It’s all about how to create a better life and create connections,” said Sharpe’s son, Jeremy, VP for community development for Rancho Sahuarita Company. “My dad was and still is a visionary,” Jeremy said. “He understood that people were looking for a place where they could enjoy time with their families, make friends and live their everyday lives, while feeling safe, secure and a part of something bigger.”

A value proposition

Bob Sharpe’s commitment to providing a value proposition much bigger than houses on streets led to booming growth and success that earned multiple awards for the Rancho Sahuarita master plan. It was named the best-selling community in Arizona by RCLCO and was fifth in the country in 2008 in sales. Groundbreaking for Rancho Sahuarita took place in 2000, and the first homebuyers were living there by 2002. Club Rancho Sahuarita, the community’s center of activity, and Sahuarita Lake were built during that time to offer even the earliest homebuyers “a country club atmosphere in an affordable way,” Jeremy said. Providing a high quality of life for residents has always been the number one focus, Jeremy said. Even during the Great Recession, the Sharpes did the opposite of what many builders and developers were doing during that time. They increased their offerings and amenities for the sake of all Rancho Sahuarita residents, a move that speaks strongly to the dedication and priorities laid down from continued on page 136 >>> Winter 2018

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BizREALESTATE continued from page 135 the beginning by Bob Sharpe. The decision – made for an already amenity-rich community – paid off. Throughout the recession, 300 to 400 homes per year were sold, while home sales came to a near standstill in other parts of Arizona. ‘Family, friends and fun’

The team at Rancho Sahuarita emphasizes that Rancho Sahuarita isn’t so much about the homes in the physical sense, Jeremy said, but as a means to be able to live in this desirable environment. “The house is the ticket for the movie, and the movie is all that comes with living in Rancho Sahuarita,” he said. This vibrant lifestyle centers around activities and programming that focus on “family, friends and fun,” Jeremy said. All lifestyle events and classes are compared against specific criteria, to ensure they are a ‘good fit’ for the resi-

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dents of the community. These “guiding principles” help drive much of what the Lifestyle Team has put together over the years, and like the lifestyle itself, will continue to evolve as the community does.

It’s all about how to create a better life and create connections.

Jeremy Sharpe VP for Community Development Rancho Sahuarita Company –

With a continuing trend towards the importance of health and wellness on a global scale, a key piece of the design of Rancho Sahuarita is the opportunity it provides for residents to live healthier lifestyles. The Sharpes and their 100+ employees emphasize healthy living for residents, both with amenities and in programs offered. The community includes a 24-hour fitness center, fitness classes, three pools, 12 parks, 17 miles of paved trails, a water park and basketball, tennis and sand volleyball courts. “In 2018, we’ll have 200 different events, plus over 30 free health and wellness classes per week. Our team does an amazing job with all we offer,” Jeremy said. Something for everyone

Rancho Sahuarita’s target market was, and still is, young families. Homebuyers, on average, are 32 years old. They tend to work for major employers throughout Tucson. “We’re within a

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20-minute drive of a major job sector – the airport, Raytheon, Davis-Monthan, the University and downtown,” Jeremy said. Residents also work for the U.S. Border Patrol and at the nearby mines. New commercial development in Rancho Sahuarita will continue to grow the job base within the community, allowing some people to even walk or bike to work. A new generation of homebuyers are now making moves to communities like Rancho Sahuarita, Jeremy said. While the recession has caused many millennials to buy houses later than previous age groups, they are looking for the same things. “There are 80 million millennials that are starting to enter the market,” Jeremy said. “What we see is that people used to buy homes younger. Now, that’s happening later in life. However, their life stages are the same as other

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A Sampling of Resident Events •

Movies under the stars

4th of July

Rodeo Round up

Father’s Daughter Dance

Dad and Me Camp Out

Story Time for Tots

Kids’ fall, spring and summer sports camps

Coffee socials

Ballet/jazz classes

Zumba classes

• Meditation •

Hiking club

Ultimate boot camp

• Spinning • Bingo •

Farmers market

Healthy Living series

Resident mixers

Community yard sales

generations, just a few years later.” Early advertising stressed the familyoriented lifestyle and the host of activities and amenities. Campaign slogans over time have included, “It’s all in your backyard,” and “Don’t Miss the Boat.” The current promotion highlights actual residents who have grown up with the community, and touts the opportunity to “Come Grow with Us.” “The thing I appreciate most about living in Rancho Sahuarita is the sense of family,” said long-time resident Jamie Comeau. “I appreciate this community because the people you meet here become your family. When times are tough everyone comes together to help each other out.” Some of the features geared towards kids, in addition to being unique, are also educational – such as the Safari Trail with its life-size bronze animal statues and the butterfly garden. Other special programs like the new “Healthy continued on page 138 >>>

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continued from page 137 Living Lectures” and “I Can Cook for Kids” are now possible with the addition of the community’s demonstration kitchen at Club Rancho Sahuarita. Events and activities also move around to the various neighborhoods, giving everyone close access to the fun. Aside from Rancho Sahuarita’s amenities and events, Jeremy said the most important aspects homebuyers are looking for are schools, programs and trails. Collaborations and partnerships

Over the years, Jeremy said, the belief in continuously reinvigorating and reinvesting in the combination of hard and soft amenities has led to key collaborations and partnerships – with the local school district, safety providers and community organizations – which have resulted in additional benefits for residents and mutually beneficial outcomes. “We like that it is a sidewalk community and we love all the amenities, especially the parks and the lake,” said 138 BizTucson

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Rancho Sahuarita By the Numbers •

Construction started in 2000

Currently 5,700 homes

Total capacity 11,000 homes

18,000 residents

3,000 acres

17 miles of paved trails

10-acre lake

200 events a year

2 current homebuilders: Insight Homes Richmond American

6 on-site schools 7th to be built in 2018

350-acre Sahuarita Town Center

resident Candace Geary. “We like that it is safe for our kids to walk and ride their bikes on their own to meet up with friends at the parks or clubhouse. It’s a close-knit community.” Beyond the core offerings focusing on young families, Bob Sharpe also recognized a market need for a place that could deliver something different. He challenged his team to come up with unique offerings that would help differentiate the community in the minds of prospective buyers, and fill the needs of their unique families and family situations. For instance, the community has a full “special needs” program, which offers exclusive events for families of children with special needs and promotes a message of “inclusivity.” “We partner with organizations and do events each month, such as the Valentine’s Day Dance, Easter Egg Hunt or open our Splash Park just for families with special needs to enjoy,” Jeremy continued on page 140 >>> www.BizTucson.com

PHOTOS: DAVID SANDERS

BizREALESTATE


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continued from page 138 said. “These events give those families a chance to experience the lifestyle in a safe and welcoming way. They feel a part of the community and feel supported.” An intergenerational community

While Rancho Sahuarita is known for being predominately young families, the master plan also includes communities that cater to the active adult, which is a significant segment of the Southern Arizona market. There are two active adult communities and numerous activities for those over 55. Rancho Resort, on the west side of I-19, opened in 2000, selling manufactured homes with stucco finishes. Its 20,000-square-foot clubhouse was a big attraction to the original homebuyers and continues to be a popular gathering place with its activities and clubs, including 153 events held last year. Its lifestyle is active, similar to the rest of the community, with clubhouse amenities that include activity spaces, pool area, gym and a full ballroom. Residents are offered everything from movie nights at the outdoor amphitheater to mixers, resident holiday celebrations, new Lifestyle Enrichment presentations and fitness classes, plus much more. Residential growth at Rancho Resort has gone through various phases with different homebuilders, including DR Horton’s Freedom Homes, which currently is building 700 to 1,300-square-foot, traditionally built homes, Jeremy said. “It’s on the same mission as the rest of Rancho Sahuarita. It’s very affordable. This also is very a tight-knit community.” Sold-out Sonora at Rancho Sahuarita by Del Webb is the development’s other active adult community. Located amongst the other neighborhoods, and within the Rancho Sahuarita community, Sonora consists of just over 400 homes. 140 BizTucson

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We’re within a 20-minute drive of a major job sector – the airport, Raytheon, Davis-Monthan, the university and downtown.

– Jeremy Sharpe VP for Community Development Rancho Sahuarita Company

Also unique to Rancho Sahuarita’s value proposition for active adults is a special club, the “Saguaro Club,” developed especially to bring together members of that demographic, Jeremy said. The club is available to residents of Rancho Resort, Sonora at Rancho Sahuarita, and any of the many other seniors who live within the Rancho Sahuarita master plan. Club members pay a one-time annual fee to join and enjoy access to special events, invitations to mixers and free water park guest passes for grandkids. For a small additional fee, they may participate in Explore Arizona excursions, which offers statewide trips, such as to Arizona Diamondbacks games, Tucson art galleries and Bisbee. Through 17 years of growth and with much development still ahead, Rancho Sahuarita has become an example of how homebuilding, business, schools and family lifestyle can be integrated to build a community. It takes planning, time and vision. And it takes leaders who truly care about creating a desirable place for people to live and form connections in all areas of their lives.

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PHOTOS: DAVID SANDERS

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Robert Sharpe Founder Rancho Sahuarita

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‘Today is a Good Day’ Cancer Can’t Slow Rancho Sahuarita Founder

PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

By David Pittman

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Rancho Sahuarita, once only a vision in one man’s mind, is today a master-planned community that is home to 18,000 residents and it is considered among the most successful developments of its type in the nation. The vision belonged to Rancho Sahuarita founder Bob Sharpe. He transformed 3,000 acres of dormant land, located 20 miles south of downtown Tucson on I-19, into a haven of 5,700 spacious homes for the middle class. “We envisioned Rancho Sahuarita as a place where residents could have more time to enjoy what’s really important in life, like family, friends and fun,” said Sharpe, 65. “It’s all about offering a lifestyle that makes people’s lives easier, and more meaningful and enjoyable.” Rancho Sahuarita has been Sharpe’s vision for almost 25 years. He considers the community a lasting legacy for his family. However, he is now tackling a new challenge – his life-and-death struggle with brain cancer. Remarkably, against almost impossible odds, Sharpe is surviving his terminal prognosis and he wants some good to come from his experience. He and his wife,

Deborah, have formed the “Today is a Good Day” foundation that has raised more than $450,000 for brain cancer research in the last year. “I’m optimistic that we can make an impact now that will contribute to the cure and prevention of cancer in the future,” says Sharpe. In March 2015, Sharpe learned that he’d been diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of brain cancer that afflicts U.S. Sen. John McCain. “I wanted to deal with it immediately,” Sharpe said. “Within a week of receiving the diagnosis, I underwent surgery to remove the tumor at Banner – University Medical Center. I was very fortunate that Dr. Michael Lemole, who also saved the life of (then-U.S. Rep.) Gabby Giffords, was my surgeon. I was told that if I survived the surgery I would have four to 15 months to live, with only a 2-percent chance of surviving after that. “This coming March, I will have survived three years – which is a miracle to me – and increases my odds of surviving another year to as high as 70 percent.” Following the surgery, Sharpe underwent radiation and 21 months of continued on page 144 >>> Winter 2018

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

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Robert Sharpe with son Jeremy Sharpe continued from page 143 chemotherapy, an unusually long period for chemo, but he was combining the chemo with alternative treatments. For now, Sharpe is tumor-free, continuing MRIs every two months, and, as he says, “living each day to the fullest extent possible by appreciating the beauty, the love and the people in my life.” An unobtrusive, soft-spoken, optimistic man who is quick with a kind word and a smile, Sharpe’s experience with cancer forced him to face his own mortality. He made a conscious decision not to be depressed, bitter or disappointed, and he committed himself to having a positive, optimistic and grateful attitude. “I’ve been told that you never truly beat brain cancer and that essentially you’re waiting for another tumor to recur,” Sharpe said. “Waiting for the other shoe to drop can be stressful, but only if I allow myself to waste the precious time I have left by worrying and 144 BizTucson

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postponing doing the things that make me happy today. “Regardless of the time remaining in my life, I am moving forward with the attitude that what will be, will be, and I am appreciating every moment of every day as a new life.” During the first year of Sharpe’s recovery, his son, Jeremy, called him often to ask how he was feeling. Jeremy recalled, “Every day, no matter what was going on, my dad would always say to me, ‘Today is a good day.’ “His optimism and courage during the most difficult of times are inspirational. ‘Today is a Good Day’ became the family mantra, and it’s used as the name for my parent’s cancer-fighting foundation. Now, this saying is on thousands of hats, T-shirts and stickers reminding people to be positive and grateful, no matter what is happening in their lives.” David Arons, CEO of the National continued on page 146 >>>

Regardless of the time remaining in my life, I am moving forward with the attitude that what will be, will be. I am appreciating every moment of every day as a miracle.

Robert Sharpe Founder Rancho Sahuarita –

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continued from page 144 Brain Tumor Society, describes Sharpe as a model of an informed cancer patient. According to Arons, “Bob Sharpe reads the latest research, asks questions of his doctors and continually seeks out the best medical advice. Bob has a great attitude about life. He is constantly making friends, connecting with people, and using his brain tumor experience to try to help find a cure for brain cancer by encouraging the cooperation of many doctors and scientists.” Bob said, “When it comes to brain cancer, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of answers. They can’t tell me why I got sick or why I’m still alive. But they all recommend that I keep doing what I’ve been doing. So, I’m continuing to smile and appreciate all the little things in life. “I also realized that I had everything to gain by purposely spending the remaining moments of every day of my life trying to help others that have brain cancer who don’t have my resources or connections. I have gotten satisfaction from visiting with other brain cancer patients and sharing with them that they’re not a statistic and there is hope.”

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Sharpe believes that changing his lifestyle has enhanced his recovery. He feels that basic things, such as getting eight hours of sleep nightly, exercising regularly, eliminating stress, and having

His optimism and courage during the most difficult of times were inspirational.

– Jeremy Sharpe VP for Community Development Rancho Sahuarita Company son of Robert Sharpe

good nutritional habits, are contributing to his overall well-being and brain health.

Greg Vogel, CEO of Land Advisors Organization in Scottsdale and a close, personal friend, said the same extensive due diligence Sharpe used in creating Rancho Sahuarita was put to use to combat his brain cancer. “Bob Sharpe has one of the most curious minds that ever existed,” Vogel said. “When Bob decided to build Rancho Sahuarita, he got to know the people responsible for developing the finest master-planned developments across the country. He studied their projects, learned from them, and incorporated many of their most successful ideas into his community, but always at an affordable cost, and it worked brilliantly.” Vogel said Sharpe is the kindest, most thoughtful person he’s ever met. “When I was going through a troublesome period, he actually called me while he was going through cancer treatments to check on my well-being,” he said. “He’s always thinking of others.” Sharpe said he has been able to curtail his work as the managing partner of Rancho Sahuarita, by handing over most of the day-to-day operations to Jeremy, 29.

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PHOTO: DAVID SANDERS

Bob Sharpe at the 2016 Rancho Sahuarita Cancer Walk

“I feel very fortunate that I can rely on my son to manage the tedious tasks of running a master-planned community,” Bob said. “When it comes to the large strategic and financial decisions, I am very much involved since I still like to be creative and focus on the big-picture. My greatest pleasure in business is

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mentoring my team on how to be entrepreneurial and run a business in an efficient and financially sustainable way, which we have managed to do through the toughest of times over the last 35 years.” “Although the last decade has been very tough on the real estate market, we

BizREALESTATE didn’t let one of our 100 employees go,” Bob added. “We have been able to keep everyone employed because we don’t have any debt and we own cash-flowing businesses, like a water company and commercial properties. Our employees have been very loyal to us and we are very loyal to them. We’re a family, and Jeremy is leading our team now.” Last year at a real estate conference, where Bob was sharing his brain cancer story, Vogel made a comment to the group that Bob remembers to this day. “Greg said, ‘Twenty-three years ago, Bob’s chances of developing a successful master-planned community in Tucson were about 2 percent, and with those same odds, I fully expect Bob to also overcome his brain cancer.’ “Considering the incredible success of Rancho Sahuarita and my unlikely, 33-month survival,” Bob said, “it is clear to me that miracles do happen.”

Biz To learn more about Bob Sharpe’s foundation to fight brain cancer or to donate to the cause, visit www.todayisagooddayfoundation.com

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Jobs, Amenities Make for a Bright Future ‘Location Drives Sales’

PHOTOS: DAVID SANDERS

By Christy Krueger and Jay Gonzales

The bustling job corridor on Tucson’s south and west sides – with Raytheon Missile Systems and Caterpillar as the headliners – puts Rancho Sahuarita in position for a long and prosperous future as those incoming engineers and other highpaid workers look for homes. “Location drives sales,” said Ginger Kneup, a residential real estate market analyst who also happens to live in Rancho Sahuarita. “Rancho Sahuarita is near the employment centers around the airport, and there are also a lot of Border Patrol people living there. It’s a good location for a working couple where one person is going south and one person is going north.” Major employment announcements of the past year or so – with Raytheon announcing that it is adding 2,000 jobs to its location near Tucson International Airport, and with Caterpillar announcing a big move here west of downtown – Rancho Sahuarita’s housing mix of young, first-time buyers all the way to the active, over-55 adult means employees looking to fill those jobs www.BizTucson.com

Rancho Sahuarita has the highest level of amenities of any master-planned community in the region. It’s a huge opportunity for builders to be in a community where they don’t have to build any of the amenities themselves because they’re already there.

– Ginger Kneup Residential Real Estate Market Analyst Bright Future Real Estate Research

– no matter where they are in the careers – have a place to look about 20 minutes away. To make sure the masterplanned community is ready, a number of new developments are underway while Rancho Sahuarita makes sure its plentiful amenities remain attractive to potential residents and potential builders. “Rancho Sahuarita has the highest level of amenities of any master-planned community in the region,” Kneup said. “It’s a huge opportunity for builders to be in a community where they don’t have to build any of the amenities themselves because they’re already there. “The builder can really focus on selling homes when they’re in a community like this. They don’t have to commit other resources. They also have the support of Rancho Sahuarita where if a developer has homebuyers, they can send them to the clubhouse and the staff will tour them around. It’s one less responsibility for the builder.” continued on page 150 >>> Winter 2018

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BizREALESTATE

Right

Entrada La Villita 71-lot neighborhood

Far right

Entrada del Rio, 526-home development opening in summer of 2018

Construction by Richmond American Homes has started in Entrada La Villita, a 71-lot neighborhood near Sahuarita Road and La Villita Road. Four different two-story floor plans are being offered. That will be followed by the launch of Entrada del Rio, a 526home development opening in summer of 2018. “The amenity-rich backdrop of Rancho Sahuarita and the continued growth of the town is a major draw for Richmond,” said Michael J. Del Castillo, Tucson division president for Richmond American Homes. “We’re very excited to be building in Rancho Sahuarita again. We’ve experienced great success throughout the years at our previous communities in the master plan, and we’re looking forward to the same at our newest community, Entrada La Villita.” Kneup pointed out that while master-planned communities are back on the drawing board after the lengthy real-estate crash, homebuyers looking for a developer to build another amenity150 BizTucson

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Rancho Sahuarita Homebuilders 2002 – 2018

Rancho Sahuarita is composed of 44 neighborhoods to date, which were built by the following companies: • D.R. Horton • Consolidated Mortgage, formerly known as Townsend Construction • Insight Homes • KB Home • Monterey Homes • Pulte Homes • Richmond American Homes • Robert Spinelli, formerly known as Townsend Construction • Sivage Homes

rich community like Rancho Sahuarita are probably out of luck. “Very few developers are putting in the kind of money that has been put in at Rancho Sahuarita anymore,” Kneup said. “With the foreclosure crisis and the crash of 2008, everyone became very risk-averse. No one is putting money upfront to do things that 12 or 13 years ago made sense. Even when you look at new master plans that are underway, none of them will have the level of amenities that are here in Rancho Sahuarita.” By the end of 2017, approximately 18,000 residents were living in Rancho Sahuarita. They are spread out over 44 neighborhoods. Nine builders have constructed homes here since 2002. For several years following the recession, Rancho Sahuarita’s developers purposely slowed the addition of new neighborhoods to allow the resale market to catch up, while continuing to enhance lifestyles by adding programs and amenities. Doing so helped support existing home values. Now that the houscontinued on page 152 >>> www.BizTucson.com

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BizREALESTATE continued from page 150 ing market is recovering, site work is being completed at two new neighborhoods in preparation for the re-start of new home building. “Rancho Sahuarita is benefiting from a combination of rising demand, declining inventory and low interest rates,” Bob Sharpe said. “There has been a recent surge in demand and prices at the entry-level end of the market, allowing existing residents to sell their homes.” Rancho Sahuarita is not only a residential development. Like a small town, it has nearby shopping, services and commercial offerings that enhance the living experience for residents. The residential population has grown to such an extent that it’s catch-up time for the commercial sectors. Rancho Sahuarita Marketplace is considered a vibrant gathering place near I-19 and Sahuarita Road with retail, grocery, dining and banking. “This is one of the top performing Fry’s in the state,” Jeremy Sharpe said.

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Across the street are a gas station and Panda Express. Plans are in the works to add a hotel, offices and more restaurants to the Rancho Sahuarita Marketplace. Excitement is circulating around the new phase of development at Sahuarita Town Center. Current uses include a municipal government complex, post office, fire station, schools, a library and churches. Additional mixed use is planned for the Town Center, including potential for various retail, office and commercial opportunities. A new school, as well as community gathering spaces, are currently under construction. Now in its final design stage is The Place at Rancho Sahuarita, a green gathering spot with an outdoor amphitheater, splash park, lazy river, picnic areas and food truck parking. At buildout, the Town Center will encompass more than 1 million square feet of mixed-use structures and spaces and is expected to be a source of job growth for residents.

Bob Sharpe wrote in Trend Report, a real estate industry publication: “The Town of Sahuarita was recently awarded a $3 million grant to aid in the construction of Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center, known as SAMTEC. This hub of innovation will house groundbreaking technology-oriented companies that will help grow and shape the future of employment in the region.” Located on the west side of I-19, SAMTEC will be built on 3.76 acres that Rancho Sahuarita sold to the Town of Sahuarita. Two local companies have already indicated they will relocate to the multi-tenant facility – Hydronalix, a maritime robotics manufacturer, and Control Vision, a manufacturer of optical instruments and control systems. “With thousands of jobs expected to be located within 20 minutes, Rancho Sahuarita is well positioned to meet the housing needs of future area residents,” Bob Sharpe said. “Its unique lifestyle combined with a readily available lot inventory will allow Rancho Sahuarita to continue to be successful.” Biz

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BizEDUCATION

Partners in Education

Support for School Critical for Community

PHOTOS: SAHUARITA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

By Christy Krueger

The expression – “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” – is a fitting way to describe the partnership between Rancho Sahuarita and Sahuarita Unified School District. Neither entity would be as robust as it is today without the other. And they continue to work closely together so they both can thrive well into the future. “One reason young families are drawn to Rancho Sahuarita is the community’s commitment to education,” said Bob Sharpe, founder of Rancho Sahuarita. “Great schools are the foundation of a great community.” Manuel Valenzuela started with the school district in 2005 and became superintendent in 2010. He remembers the relationship already being in place and evolving during the time his predecessor, Jay St. John, led the district. “The relationship has continued to grow over time,” Valenzuela said. “Since then, Rancho Sahuarita has worked with the district to build an extension of a wing at Sahuarita High School, and Mr. Sharpe had donated money for Anza Trail School.” Rancho Sahuarita also donated land for the construction of Copper View Elementary School and helped develop the school district’s Sahuarita Aquatic Center. “It’s a meaningful partnership,” Valenzuela said. “We realized we could offset some of the costs and support the overall development of public infrawww.BizTucson.com

structure, such as building roads. “We are finding common interests and needs to leverage so we can create

We are finding common interests and needs to leverage so we can create something bigger and broader than if we were doing it alone.

Manuel Valenzuela Superintendent Sahuarita Unified School District –

something bigger and broader than if we were doing it alone. The process has produced a cooperative relationship beyond bricks and mortar.” Jeremy Sharpe, VP of community development for Rancho Sahuarita, added: “SUSD remains a key partner for Rancho Sahuarita. Through land donations, being a founding member of Sahuarita Wins, and donating time and money for key academic and school initiatives, we have been able to collaborate with the community to ensure SUSD continues to thrive.” While having a strong educational system is one of the most important elements for Rancho Sahuarita homebuyers, it works both ways since the schools also contribute to the local workforce and the overall economic development of the town. With a major employment sector just 20 minutes away including Raytheon, the budding aerospace industry near Tucson International Airport and downtown, Rancho Sahuarita and other nearby businesses are putting their money and time into assisting SUSD with important educational initiatives. The Freeport-McMoRan Foundation kick started the district’s participation in the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), making SUSD the first school district in Arizona to become part of the nationwide program. continued on page 159 >>> Winter 2018

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PHOTOS: SAHUARITA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

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continued from page 157 The program provides financial incentives and college credit for students taking Advanced Placement classes, as well tutors, and training and school supplies for teachers. Freeport-McMoRan owns the Sierrita Mine southwest of Sahuarita. Sahuarita Wins! is an initiative spearheaded by businesses in partnership with the SUSD to try to find ways to fill the many needs of the public-school district and how to create opportunities for the students. “We discuss how the school district and businesses can partner and benefit one another,” said Sharpe. “We brought everybody to the table to talk about what the school district needs. What do businesses need? And how do we get students into the business community?” On the trades side of career preparation, the Heavy Equipment Operations program was created through the Pima County Joint Technical Education District. On Nov. 13, the program’s new facility at Walden Grove High School www.BizTucson.com

was dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It will serve all Pima County JTED member districts. “Dr. Valenzuela is very innovative,” said Sharpe. “He believes in providing

One reason young families are drawn to Rancho Sahuarita is because of the community’s commitment to education.

Bob Sharpe Founder Rancho Sahuarita –

an education for all students. There’s a focus on different trades – kitchen, auto shop, they have a Habitat for Humanity partnership – and also on students attending top colleges.” Health and safety are additional focuses for Valenzuela. “We were recently recognized for a process we developed in management of traumatic brain injuries and concussions,” he said. “We have a multi-facet program with cross disciplines – speech therapists and coaches and beyond – to work with students with concussions to monitor and get them back to the classroom and athletic fields.” The district purchased robotic tackling dummies for the football teams’ use during practice. Valenzuela said the University of Arizona is the only other school in Pima County that he knows of using this new, safer practice equipment. The growth in schools has been significant since Rancho Sahuarita took off, Valenzuela said. “When I came, we had five schools on one main camcontinued on page 160 >>> Winter 2018

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BizEDUCATION continued from page 159 pus.” Since then, Anza Trail, Walden Grove and Copper View Elementary schools have been built, and a ninth, a K-8 school, is under construction in the Sahuarita Town Center. When it is completed, there will be seven schools within the boundaries of Rancho Sahuarita. He said it’s somewhat unusual to have so many schools within a masterplanned community, mainly from a land standpoint. “When you’re building schools, you have to look at the availability of land. Bob Sharpe has been very willing to give land and focus on growth patterns and density.” It makes sense to build schools where people live and where they will be living, he added. Although Bob Sharpe has donated more than 100 acres for schools, funding is still needed to build them. This is where the residents of Sahuarita come in. “Our community is generous with school bonds and overrides,” Valenzu-

ela said. “The overrides support programs like the arts and sports. Some schools were built entirely with bonds. Jeremy has been involved in passing ballot measures. He invests a lot of time to causes he deems worthy, and I’m grateful.” In 2016, voters passed a $25 million bond, $20 million of which is going toward construction of the new K-8 school. The other $5 million will replace modular classrooms with permanent structures. “Jeremy was co-chair of a political action committee for passage of local ballots that go back to school needs,” Valenzuela noted. “He invested a significant amount of time. These are necessary.” The superintendent clearly respects the Sharpes and their advocacy for the town. “Bob Sharpe brought a vision of creating a lifestyle focused on building community and schools. He worked to be partners with private and public sectors that have worked to materialize that vision. It’s unique.”

Sahuarita Unified School District Schools Schools within the boundaries of Rancho Sahuarita: • Sahuarita Primary • Sahuarita Intermediate • Sahuarita Middle • Anza Trail K-8 • Copper View Elementary • Sahuarita High • K-8 in Sahuarita Town Center – not yet named, to open in 2018/2019 In addition, the Early Childhood Center is located in Rancho Sahuarita

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Recent honors and recognition for the Sahuarita Unified School District and administrators The Sahuarita Unified School District serves 5,800 students in preschool through 12th grade. The district has four elementary schools, one K-8 school, one middle school, two high schools, an alternative secondary school, and an early childhood center. Seven of the schools are within the Rancho Sahuarita master-planned community. The following is a list of recent awards and recognition received by the school district.

Cenergistic Energy Excellence Award for energy efficiency, 2016

Metropolitan Pima Alliance (MPA) Common Ground Award, 2015

ASBO Pinnacle Award for Finance, 2015

Scott Downs, Arizona School Personnel Administrator of the Year, 2015

• Brett

Bonner, Arizona School Administrators Distinguished Administrator Award for the Educational Services Division, 2017

Golden Bell for concussion management protocol

First National Math + Science Initiative Arizona School Partner District – 300% increase in qualifying AP scores

University of Arizona Teaching Fellows site

University of Arizona iCats partnership site

Dr. Manuel Valenzuela, All Arizona Superintendent of the Year for Large Size Districts, 2015

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