Mike Taylor predicts that Atwell, the massive master-planned community on the outskirts of Highland Springs Avenue in Banning across from its Altis housing development in Beaumont, will be among the last of such giant projects.
Taylor, division president of Corona-based Pardee Homes which owns the development projects, was in Banning Monday morning to witness the official groundbreaking of the 4,400-home Atwell community off the corner of Highland Springs and Wilson Street.
“The cost to build a master-planned community is very expensive,” he pointed out. “Most public housing companies want to build just homes.”
Sprawled out among 1,528 acres is one of the few remaining vast open spaces in Banning that until a few years from now had an unadulterated view of San Gorgonio Mountain.
Monday morning’s ceremony for city officials and company VIPs marked the start of what should be the final chapter in a 30-year history that started with what was originally the Deutsch Specific Plan, approved by the city of Banning in 1986 that called for a master-planned community of 5,400 homes.
The original plan called for an 18-hole golf course, a 1.6-acre fire station, and more than 100 acres of open space and nature trails that was expected to build out over 35-40 years.
It will also house an elementary school site that will fall under the Beaumont Unified School District (though the community facilities district is being built in Banning, only 10 percent of the homes — roughly 500 — will be served by Banning Unified School District).
After a lawsuit, Pardee’s previously referred to community called Butterfield, named after a former stagecoach route that went through the area, was scaled back.
More than 4,400 single-family homes will span 40 neighborhoods, with Italian, Spanish and Craftsman-style homes ranging from 1,800 to 4,200 square feet will be offered, starting at prices just under $300,000 to over half of a million dollars.
According to Pardee Homes, grading for the first set of homes will begin before the end of September, with model homes anticipated to open in January 2020, and the first occupancies slated for May 2020.
City council candidate Tim Smith, a city council candidate for Banning’s District 4, which the Atwell community falls under, was at the groundbreaking.
“I came to support the community,” he said. “It’s sad to see the beauty of the pastures go, but we need to move forward with new homes to help the citizens of Banning,” Smith said.
He quizzed Taylor about the fate of the “veterans tree” surrounded by flags on Highland Springs Avenue.
Taylor assured Smith that the tree would be moved in its entirety about 600 feet south, and explained that the tree will have to be moved since Highland Springs Avenue is going to be widened.
Taylor told the Record Gazette that grading and the laying of infrastructure such as sewer lines, water piping and roads will take a couple of years before the first house gets built.
The first phase will build along the corner of Wilson Street and Highland Springs Avenue and will include a 20-acre school site and a 30-acre commercial site to complement that phase’s 480 homes.
“Pardee is not just a homebuilder,” Taylor said. “We build communities. We’ve been in the industry for nearly 100 years. This will be a great project that will be inspired by health and wellness and outdoor living.”