A piece of the East Valley’s most famous farm is being set aside for homes.
The Empire Group of Companies of Scottsdale announced last week that it is developing 13 acres of Schnepf Farm in Queen Creek for a gated community of 144 rental homes that will be ready for leasing by late next year.
The community, called The Village at Schnepf Farms, will be located on the northwest corner of Rittenhouse and Cloud roads.
Owners of the farm since the 1960s, Mark and Carrie Schnepf were early pioneers in the “agro-tainment” industry, hosting the celebrated Pumpkin and Chili Park in October, a Peach Festival in May as well as weddings.
Empire said it worked with the Schnepfs “to develop the vision for a build-for-rent community that incorporates the farm’s attributes and history.”
The Scottsdale-based developer is a leader in mixed-use high-rise and build-for-rent projects in Arizona and a leader in a growing trend in new-home construction.
As of 2021, build-to-rent properties make up only 5% of properties, but they are currently on the rise, according to Real Estate Magazine.
It reported that 50,000 build-to-rent homes were constructed from September 2019 to September 2020 in contrast to a 40-year average of 31,000 annually.
The website PropertyShark called build-to-rent a “turbocharged” trend, noting large institutional investors in the next 18 months are lining up to shell out $40 billion on constructing such homes.
Empire itself has invested $1.9 billion in the build-to-rent market, according to published reports.
“Build-to-rent homes are created specifically to be professionally managed communities, often providing a residential experience with upscale amenities, much like a typical apartment complex that’s targeted at young professionals in urban areas,” PropertyShark said.
Since the market crash of 2008, when the government provided big incentives for investors to buy up thousands of foreclosed properties, the return on rental homes has become an increasingly attractive investment that the pandemic has fueled because of its “speed and scale,” PropertyShark said.
“Since the onset of COVID, working from home has become normalized,” it noted. “As a result, millions of city-dwellers have relocated to suburban areas, and coupled with record price growth, demand for single family rentals is skyrocketing.”
Empire said the Village at Schnepf Farms will comprise one-story homes with smart technology and private landscaped backyards.
“Interior design and architecture will incorporate modern farmhouse elements to honor the history of the farm and its surrounding area,” it said.
“For more than 50 years, Schnepf Farms has been hosting visitors almost daily for produce picking and its famous annual peach harvest. Residents of the Village at Schnepf farms will enjoy picking their own fresh produce, living within walking distance from the garden and the farm’s many other amenities and entertainment,” stated Shelby Duplessis, president of land development for Empire Group.
In addition to walking paths and a neighborhood dog park, the community will feature a resort-style pool and clubhouse with a fully equipped fitness center. Other amenities include covered parking, electric car charging stations, a dog wash salon and barbecue and lawn game area.
“Queen Creek is a rapidly growing area with limited options for renters. We expect the Village at Schnepf Farms to appeal to employees of Schnepf Farms and people looking to move to the area. It’s situated in a beautiful setting and includes incredible community amenities,” added Richard Felker, founding partner of Empire Group.
Village at Schnepf Farms marks the seventh build-for-rent community in Maricopa County for the developer in the past 18 months.
Felker founded the Scottsdale-based company in the early 1970s. Under his direction, the company has built its reputation as a leading developer of Class A mixed-use high-rise projects and luxury build-for-rent communities throughout Arizona.