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FLORENCE, AZ-An Atlanta-based residential developer has paid a little more than $14 million for 5,550 acres just south of the Valley and is in escrow on another 3,200 acres. The acreage is ticketed for a massive master-planned community, including commercial development, over the next decade.

Vanguard Properties Inc. has bought the entire land portfolio of BHP Copper, a Tucson-based copper company. The sale is expected to close some time in the near future. CB Richard Ellis’ Phoenix brokers–John Bullington, Chaz Smith, John Finnegan and Susan Mendonca–have represented the seller.

The acreage is in Pinal County at Felix Road and Hunt Highway just outside the town of Florence, which is about 35 miles southeast of Phoenix. “It came up for sale so we bought it,” Adrain Taylor, Vanguard’s senior vice president, tells GlobeSt.com. “We see a piece of land that in a few years looks like it will be ready for some kind of residential development. It seemed to be one of the few large parcels that were available. We are real happy to tie that up and purchase it.”

Taylor says that specific plans on the 8,750 acres have not been determined, but that it’s sure to have some commercial space. BHP had owned the land for some time and still has a number of mines in Arizona. BHP had planned to mine the land for copper, but changed its mind as a result of the recent downturn in prices.

The Indian reservations that ring the Valley and limit development in certain directions are pushing the future growth of the Valley toward the southeast, Taylor says. “We don’t know if it’s going to be ready for development in five or 10 years,” he says. “We just don’t know. We may have a very, very hot property.”

The 5,550 Pinal County acres are zoned for 18,000 homes. The 3,200-acre parcel is currently going through the zoning process, Taylor says. Pinal County has been enthusiastic about having a residential development occupy that parcel and have been accommodating on the zoning, he says.

Vanguard expects demand for the land in the Florence area will increase about the same time that its other master-planned community in the Valley, Dynamite Mountain Ranch, is reaching build-out, Taylor says.

Dynamite Mountain Ranch is in north Phoenix, near Interstate17 and Dynamite Road. Homes sales in the master-planned community began in earnest two years ago after Del Webb began work on its master-planned community of Anthem and military insurer San Antonio-based USAA had announced plans for a regional campus on 600 acres to the north of Dynamite Mountain Ranch.

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