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What’s going on with the 56-acre housing development in Citrus Heights?

A view from Arcadia Drive shows large open space where the future Mitchell Farms housing development will be built. // Mike Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip–
An expansive, 260-unit housing development and park trails project in Citrus Heights — approved nearly two years ago — was initially expected to have its first homes already built by 2020, but construction activity has been absent from the site for several months.

Mitchell Farms, the 56-acre development along Arcadia Drive, was a project initially undertaken by Watt Communities, which began grading and site work last year. By the fall, however, KB Home, a Los Angeles homebuilder with central California headquarters in Roseville, purchased the project from Watt Communities and made several minor changes to the plans.

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A spokesman for KB Home was not able to be reached Wednesday, but the company’s president and chief executive officer, Jeffrey Mezger, said in an earnings call this week that the publicly traded company has suspended all new development projects, citing the recent COVID-19 shutdowns and market uncertainty.

“Given the uncertainty that we were operating under, we quickly moved to defer land acquisitions, and to suspend land development, as well as put a hold on starts and production,” he said.

The company released a statement Wednesday reporting earnings have been “significantly impacted by the severe economic and social disruptions.”

According to the financial news outlet Barron’s, KB Home stock has seen a 3% drop year to date. Stock initially plummeted mid-March to a low of $11 per share, following COVID-19 shutdowns, but the stock soon tripled in price to a high of $36 on June 3. Stock has since dropped to $29, following the June 24 earnings report.

Despite the decline, Wednesday’s report from the company shows it hopes future home sales will increase as demand shifts away from crowded cities hard hit by the virus.

The Citrus Heights project includes plans for groupings of homes into several “villages,” with differing layouts and sizes ranging from around 1,400-square-feet to approximately 2,000-square-feet.

A popular aspect of the Mitchell Farms project has been the large amount of open space incorporated in the development, as a large swath down the middle of the acreage must remain undeveloped due to a 100-year flood plain associated with Arcade Creek. Under an agreement with the Sunrise Recreation and Parks District, the undeveloped acreage will become part of the parks district.

Dave Mitchell, district administrator for Sunrise Recreation and Parks District, told The Sentinel in a phone call Wednesday he didn’t know when construction will resume.

“I know the development team got underway, and they were moving dirt, started making pads and putting the roads in,” Mitchell said. “I haven’t been contacted that construction was going to get back underway.”

The Sunrise Recreation and Parks District hopes to be able to accept the finished green space next year.

“We have a turn-key agreement with the developer,” Mitchell said. “When the park is built and comes up to the standards of plans and the standards that we have, we’ll accept the park into our inventory.”

Meghan Huber, economic development and communications manager for the City of Citrus Heights, told The Sentinel in an email the city is doing what it can to support the housing development and other projects.

“As we see all over our region, COVID-19 has made significant impacts on the progress of various business developments,” Huber said. “But as a City we are doing everything we can to support projects like the Mitchell Farms residential development.”

The development area was formerly home to the Sunrise Golf Course, which closed before site work began. The development derives its name from the original owner, Ted Mitchell, whose family purchased 160 acres in Citrus Heights over 100 years ago.

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