Mesa del Sol: Forest City Residential

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New Mexico’s Master-Planned Masterpiece

Driven by a vision to create an ecological master-planned community, Forest City Residential and Covington Capital have delivered Mesa del Sol, the highly-anticipated community featuring a trifecta of sustainability.

By Evan Lancaster

As the trends of the green building practices continue to become more refined, home builders are finding innovative nuances to further push the boundaries of sustainable housing in both size and efficiency. With an ecoconscious vision at the core of a mixed-use, master-planned setting, developer Forest City Residential in partnership with Covington Capital provides the highly-anticipated Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque, N.M.

Commercial development of Mesa del Sol began in 2005, located in the southeastern section of Albuquerque’s metro area and less than 30 minutes from major employment areas and downtown. The residential portion of Mesa del Sol is positioned on a mesa, delivering pristine views of the surrounding Sandia Mountains and Mount Taylor. The developer carried a long-term vision for this 12,000-acre master-planned community. According to Jennifer Hurst, marketing director for Mesa del Sol and Forest City Residential, this community focused on sustainable values from the start by becoming New Mexico’s first masterplanned community to incorporate LEEDcertification, BuiltGreen New Mexico, solar technology and Energy Star 3.0.

Hurst explained that Forest City’s experience and vision in land development gave Mesa del Sol the direction and initiative to go green. In May 2012, Mesa del Sol unveiled the nation’s first Smart Grid System. This innovate project will serve as the nation’s first solar storage facility, fully integrated into a utility power grid. This revolutionary project is a partnership between Mesa del Sol, Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Public Service Co., New Mexico. As a part of New Mexico’s Prosperity Energy Storage Project, the objective is to use Smart Grid Controls to overcome the challenges presented by the intermittency associated with renewable energy sources. The newly installed micro grid uses on-site solar, fuel cell, natural gas and back-up battery storage to power the 78,000- square-foot Aperture Center at Mesa del Sol.

With a $22 million investment from NEDO, this smart-grid project has set the framework for future projects of its kind. “Sustainability is a core value for all Forest City projects.

It’s just how we as a company approach our developments,” Hurst said. “If something is going to be around for decades, we want to make sure it has lasting value in the communities where we build.” She also added that land development would continue at Mesa del Sol for the next four to five decades.

Residential construction began in 2011 on Mesa del Sol with its first eight model homes opening in March 2012. Although the advancements driving this neighborhood are forward-thinking, the project team did not want the aspects of sustainability to drown-out the sense of community under a sea of technology, but chose to develop Mesa del Sol with traditional color schemes, Southwestern architectural palettes and a communal scenery with access to natural areas, parks and hiking trails. Mesa del Sol features residences from three highlyrespected home builders: RayLee Homes, Rachel Matthew Homes and Pulte Homes.

Each home builder wanted to ensure that the vision of sustainability was met. By working closely with Forest City, each builder wanted to bring that vision to reality and agreed to work to meet New Mexico’s BuiltGreen- Silver certification and Energy Star 3.0 requirements. According to Hurst, although each builder varies with their sustainability options, homeowners can expect the use of WaterSense fixtures, tankless hot water heaters, smart meters and residential solar options within their homes. In addition to the energy-efficiency add-ons made inside each Mesa del Sol residence, the layout of the entire community allows homeowners to cut down on energy consumption by helping lead a more ecological lifestyle with access to neighboring retail and shopping opportunities. “Mesa del Sol features traditional neighborhood design with residential, employment centers, retail shopping, schools and recreation nearby,” Hurst explained. “Residents can be more efficient with their days, spending less time in their cars, and more time on their feet or their bikes. This is a great lifestyle enhancement, because people save time, use less natural resources and create healthy lifestyle habits as well.”

Even in Mesa del Sol infancy there has been no shortage of recognition. Hurst explained that the surrounding community of Albuquerque has responded well and feel it is a fantastic addition to the city.

Mesa del Sol’s first neighborhood, Portrait Park, recently received the highest honor from GreenBuild New Mexico as one of the most sustainable communities in the state. Hurst attributed this recognition to Mesa del Sol’s innovative landscaping techniques featuring native plant selection and placement, ecological community design, and the amount of natural space dedicated to preserving wildlife and outdoor activities.

As Mesa del Sol continues to advance in size and efficiency, home builders are eager to showcase their products for potential homebuyers inside the community. Marlene Vance, vice president of sales, marketing and operations of Rachel Matthew Homes said that the company was willing to take on the challenges of building inside a masterplanned setting. With more than 20 years of home building experience in the New Mexico area, Rachel Matthew presents the Cottage Green Series, featuring floor plans that range from 1,070 to 1,533 square feet starting at $165,000. And the Residencia Series, featuring floor plans from 2,400 to 3,300 square feet starting at $290,000. Vance explained that both Rachel Matthew product lines reflect the true community aspects of Mesa del Sol.

By offering outdoor living space, with wraparound patios and casita options, Rachel Matthew offers residents several floor plans perfect for any household. She stated, “… Now is the time to buy and Albuquerque has so many great things to offer families as well as downsizers,” she added. “This community is nothing like Albuquerque has ever seen before. Rachel Matthew Homes believes in the Mesa Del Sol vision and we are honored to help customers see what we see.”

By incorporating a well-rounded group of home builders into its lineup, Mesa del Sol was able to feature different styles of architecture and floor plans as well. Pulte Homes offers two homes collections at Mesa del Sol. The Morada Series features four floor plans ranging from 1,930 to 2,433 square feet priced in the mid- $200’s. Pulte also offers the two attached lines, the Manzano Pair, offering two floor plans from 1,315 to 1,942 square feet starting at $185,000.

Tammy Thornton, owner and operator focusing on marketing and sales at RayLee Homes explained that they have been an Albuquerque home builder since 1976. Showcasing the Casita series in Mesa del Sol, RayLee Homes included four layouts ranging from 1,697 to 2,048 square feet starting in the low $200,000s, each with alley-loaded garages and private back yards.

Thornton added that RayLee was excited to be included in Mesa del Sol’s sustainable vision. With a strong background in sustainable building practices themselves, this project was a chance for RayLee Homes to showcase their ecological expertise. “Building in Mesa del Sol was an opportunity to push the envelope and grow as a builder. We have executed things out in Mesa del Sol that our other communities are now benefiting from as well,” she said.

“We realized this from the beginning and have enjoyed working with a great team of architects and engineers who made our RayLee designs fit within their vision. As a result of this partnership, we believe our product in Mesa del Sol is some of our very best to date!”

Evan Lancaster is the assistant editor at Green Home Builder. He may be contacted at

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