The demand for single family homes in the East Valley communities of Chandler and Gilbert remains strong, but homebuilders are running out of room to build.

“There isn’t an opportunity to go to a master-planned community anymore, they don’t exist in Chandler or Gilbert, those are pretty much gone,” said Fulton Homes president Norm Nicholls. “Unless the state land decides to let loose, we’re running out in Mesa, too.”

In Chandler and Gilbert, there are no more parcels of 300-400 acres for communities like Fulton Ranch or Power Ranch. Further out in east Mesa, there are two master-planned communities currently rising from what was once the General Motors Proving Grounds. Those two developments, Eastmark and Cadence at Gateway, are 3,200 and 464 acres, respectively, which allows them to have sprawling parks, shops and restaurants, as well as amenities like resort-style pools and recreation facilities.

The tradeoff for residents is a longer commute, as available land can only be found far away from the city centers in the Phoenix metro area.

The lack of large parcels of land does not mean that home builders aren’t very active in Chandler or Gilbert. To the contrary, there are a lot of new homes being built in those communities.

As Chandler has nearly reached build-out, home builders are taking a different approach. They are searching out properties that were zoned for commercial use, but are still sitting vacant. They buy those small properties, usually in the 10-40 acre range, and have them re-zoned for residential use.

“The City of Chandler, years ago, it just seemed like every landowner thought that their corner had to be a commercial corner,” said Nicholls. “It seemed like all four corners at every intersection in the city ended up being zoned commercial, but there was just no way physically possible that they were going to build all of those corners into commercial use.”

Homebuilders like Fulton Homes, Mattamy Homes, Meritage Homes and others have been busy buying these parcels of land at major intersections.

Chandler has seen several undeveloped commercial corners rezoned to residential,” said David de la Torre, planning manager for the City of Chandler. “There are probably many more empty or undeveloped parcels that are currently zoned or planned for commercial that may never be developed as commercial due to the oversaturation of commercial currently in the market.”

Fulton’s latest development in Chandler is one of those former commercial properties. Sirona, which is located on the northeast corner of Cooper and Pecos roads, is located on a piece of property that was unique. The city-owned 10 acres that ran along the consolidated canal and Chandler Paseo Trail, land that had no access points. Fulton purchased 13 acres and got them rezoned for residential use. Fulton then struck a deal with the city, planning and developing a park along the trail in exchange for five acres of that land, to raise their acreage to 18 and allow them to put 89 home lots in that property.

“We’ve cleaned up that entire corner for the city,” Nicholls said. “It was a great thing for us because it gave us the chance to have an infill type subdivision and it was great for them because they were stuck with a piece of property they had no access too. Now they have a great little park along that consolidated canal that they didn’t have to pay for.”

While Sirona doesn’t have the large amenities that most Fulton developments have, it is in a great location, close to the city center and the Loop 202.

“We sold a dozen in the first seven days we were open, so it just shows you that the buyers want to be in these infill locations,” Nicholls said. “I wish I could do more in some of those communities, but for people who want to be in a smaller community, it’s a cute community.”

These smaller residential developments typically feature smaller lots, which means small backyards and less maintenance requirements, something many homebuyers are looking for. Plus, for new houses in the red-hot southeast Valley market, they are affordable to many new homebuyers.

“With respect to the value that the new small-scale residential developments provide, the increase in residential units will help support existing retail developments that may currently be struggling,” de la Torre said. “The change in land use from commercial to residential has two positive effects; supporting existing retail and diversifying housing options for Chandler’s residents.”