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    500-acre northern Arizona land parcel in escrow for 1,000 homes, theme park

    Developers in escrow for a 500-acre parcel of private land in northern Arizona are planning to build at least 1,000 homes and are in talks to create a theme park.

    Total development costs for the entire project are estimated at around $500 million, said Brent Moser, principal of Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Phoenix.

    This parcel near Bearizona Wildlife Park and Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in Williams could be the last parcel of private land in northern Arizona, Moser said.

    Moser and Mike Sutton, also a principal of Lee & Associates, are handling the transaction negotiations and also are taking a lead role in what Moser calls quarterbacking the project on behalf of Witchita, Kansas-based Kansas Development.

    While it could take 10 to 15 years for the entire project to be built, the first phase of development would be a $150 million to $200 million investment, Moser said.

    “This is the last substantial — over 250 acres — privately owned parcel of land I am aware of along I-40 with near-term development potential in Coconino County,” Moser said. “The other properties along I-40 and I-17 are owned by the state land department or the federal government, which would require a lengthy application process and ultimately wind up in an auction sale.”

    Land priced at $20M

    Listed for $20 million, the parcel at Interstate 40 and Grand Canyon Boulevard currently is owned by Valley entrepreneur Max Biegert, who spent $85 million to develop and build the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in the late 1980s, Moser said.

    A 35-acre lake — named Gonzales Lake — is on the parcel. About 75 homes overlooking the lake are expected to be included in the master-planned community — named Canyon Gateway at Williams — along with some apartment units closer to I-40, Moser said.

    The new custom homes would each be on half-acre lots and range between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, he said. Smaller production homes that would cater to the workforce would most likely be between 1,400 and 2,000 square feet.

    Sean Casey, who co-founded Bearizona with his brother in 2010, said he’s glad to see more homes built in the area.

    “Housing is very hard to get in Williams,” he said. “A lot of available housing turned into vacation rentals, which makes fewer places for people to rent monthly or yearly.”

    Having a theme park near Bearizona and Grand Canyon Railway would create a larger entertainment district in the area, Casey said.

    “The more attractions, the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

    The 500-acre parcel in escrow is about three or four miles from Bearizona and a quarter mile from the railroad attraction.

    Talks with former Disney employees

    Moser said an 86-parcel is being set aside for the theme park, which also would include a hotel and some restaurants.

    About 90 days ago, a group of former Disney employees approached Moser to pitch what he calls a “western-themed story park” that wouldn’t have huge rides like a Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm but would be more like a county fair.

    While Moser said he’s pretty far along in negotiations with the former Disney employees, a deal for that particular themed park has not been finalized.

    “We need tourism and opportunities for kids to go places and do fun things, so we don’t have to go to California all the time,” Moser said. “The climate up here is so good April through October.”

    Another attraction in that area would be good for tourism because people might stay for three to five nights, he said.

    Moser said he’s trying to talk his wife into building a home in the new master-planned community, which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Phoenix.

    “I love the golf course and the feel of the town,” he said. “It’s 30 to 35 degrees cooler than the Valley.”

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