December 26th, 2019

Model homes for new Palm Springs ‘agrihood’ opening in early 2020 among olive groves

Original article by Melissa Daniels for Palm Springs Desert Sun >

Just about 30 master-planned communities in the country feature a working farm or community garden as a main focal point. Soon, Palm Springs will be added to that list with a new housing development that features acres of olive groves.

Miralon, a 309-acre site off Indian Canyon Drive in the northern part of the city, will see its first model homes open in early February, with a grand opening planned for Feb. 15.

Interested buyers can head to the welcome center — currently operating out of retro Airstream trailer — and the sales gallery that’s open from Saturday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with tours available for the unfinished model homes.

The “agrihood” – a community with a farming component – has been in the works since Freehold Communities took over the property in 2016 after plans for a golf course at the site were dissipated by the Great Recession.

On what would’ve been the golf course are approximately 7,000 trees whose fruit will be harvested and turned into olive oil by Temecula Olive Oil Company. And what once had been planned as golf cart paths will be hiking and biking trails.

Brad Shuckhart, the California division president for Freehold Communities, said the olive groves will use less water than a golf course would have, and provide locally sourced products.

“I think people, as they become conscious of where their food comes from, are increasingly interested in participating in the process. And you’re seeing these communities pop up more and more frequently,” he said.

Young Olive Tree at Miralon

A young olive tree is photographed at the Miralon housing development in Palm Springs, Calif., on December 5, 2019. The gated community will include 7,000 olive trees. (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

For would-be buyers, the olive trees will provide a unique homeowner amenity, plus some groves for shady wandering. Shuckhart envisions community events held around harvests — Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage hosts a popular harvest fest where volunteers can pick olives — and the possibility for on-site pressing.

Residents will receive an allotment of olive oil included as a part of their homeowner association fees. Olive-associated products will also be for sale in the amenity center, which will be open to the public.

Thom Curry of Temecula Olive Co. said olives are well-suited to the desert because they thrive with maximum sunlight and can tolerate tough conditions. They also provide a carbon offset, as they’re green all year round, Curry said.

“It’s all about sustainability and people being able to enjoy their environment,” he said.

As many 15,000 trees could end up at Miralon, he said. Each tree can produce about 40 pounds of olives a year, or roughly a gallon of oil.

Conserve Landcare employee Martin Rodriguez hydroseeds the olive orchard at the Miralon housing development in Palm Springs, Calif., on December 5, 2019. The gated community will include 7,000 olive trees. (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

Miralon is entitled to build 1,150 residential units, the second-largest number for any development  in Palm Springs after Escena, which is entitled to 1,450 residences on its 460 acres off North Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino.

Miralon’s first models are from Woodbridge Pacific Group. Special early pricing will start in the high $500,000s, with regular pricing ranging from $600,000 to $709,000. The builder has 44 lots for homes ranging from 2,029 to 2,809 square feet. Move-ins are expected by April at the earliest.

Shuckhart said they tailored the design requirements to reflect Desert Modernism aesthetics, like large glass windows, flat rooftops and indoor-outdoor living spaces. All homes will have solar panels.

The first homes in the development are being constructed on the south side of the property, providing sweeping views of mountains and wind farms to the west.

Two other homebuilders will have model homes in Miralon opening later in 2020. Christopher Homes will build 70 homes ranging from 1,894 to 2,210 square feet. Priced from $600,000 to $709,000, models are anticipated to open in early March.

Another 50 homes by Gallery Homes will be 2,354 to 3,195 square feet. Those homes will begin in the $700,000s, though no opening date has been finalized.

Shuckhart saidthere are also plans for condos that will be offered in the $300,000 range.

A rendering of a Flair home from Woodbridge Pacific Group in the Miralon development. (Photo: Miralon)

Shuckhart said Freehold’s market research shows a shift toward increasing demand for homes in Palm Springs, including from full-time residents.

“If you look at the investment that’s happening downtown and has over the course of the last several years, it’s clear that Palm Springs is not only currently a vibrant place, but will continue to be and will increasingly be so,” he said.

Construction has already begun on Miralon’s Midcentury Modern-inspired amenity center called The Club, which will encompass two pools, a spa, outdoor space, a fitness center, a coffee bar, poolside cabanas and a demonstration kitchen. The development also will have several lakes, dog parks and gardens.

Flair homes by Woodbridge Pacific Group are being constructed inside the Miralon development in Palm Springs, Calf., on Monday, November 26, 2019. The development will include olive orchards, which residents are to receive a share of the pressed oil. (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

Miralon isn’t the first agrihood that Freehold has planned. In Florida, the Arden development has a working farm that produces fresh fruit and vegetables.

The cost of sustaining the Florida farm is covered by a portion of the $250 monthly HOA fees, said Andy Smith, the southeast division president for Freehold. Residents pick up a box of produce once a month.

They can also use the farm as an event space, pick their own plants from herb gardens, visit a children’s garden, and volunteer to work at the farm in exchange for extra produce.

The Urban Land Institute, which researches land use and development, cataloged 27 agrihoods in the United States in 2018. The group’s best practices guide for agrihoods cited them as a way to help people get access to fresh food and promote sustainability.

The institute also said open space is considered to increase the value of a property as much as 30%.

At Arden, about 240 homes have been sold and almost 100%  of residents participate in the produce program, Smith said. The produce isn’t meant to replace a grocery store trip, Smith said, but give residents an added amenity.

“I think the agrihood concept plays into what buyers want in their community,” he said. “They want a place to gather with their families and connect with the people around them. And a golf course doesn’t do that.”

Read the original article here >