San Bernardino County’s Ontario Ranch masterplan is considered the number-11 best-selling masterplan nationwide, according to a January report from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The development spans 8,200 acres; includes new neighborhoods, amenities, and recreation; and will build approximately 47,000 homes over a 20-year period for up to 162,000 residents.
One of the most successful new communities in the Inland Empire as a whole (and in Ontario Ranch specifically) is New Haven by Brookfield Residential. Since opening in late 2015, sales have been particularly strong in this community among first-time buyers and millennials, with more than over 50 percent of buyers in the community being millennials. (The national percentage is 34 percent, according to a report by NBC News.) Brookfield Residential also recently announced a New Haven retail center will be developed.
In addition, a mid-year survey of masterplan developments by RCLCo places New Haven at number 34 nationwide — up from number 39 in 2017, an increase of 26 percent. The list also ranks New Haven as number six in California (up from number seven), with 214 home sales.
SoCal Real Estate spoke with Dave Bartlett, VP of land for Brookfield Residential, about what makes Ontario Ranch and New Haven so successful and what the future holds for development.
SoCal Real Estate What makes Ontario Ranch unique?
Bartlett: For so long, Ontario has been known as a place for business. Ontario Airport sees nearly five million passengers a year, and Ontario Airport Authority has finally purchased local control from LAWA. This market has really been known as the hub of business in the IE for probably the last 10 years, and the residential sector has just now started to be part of the overall maturation of the community. Now, besides really great places to work, there are starting to be really great places to live, and Ontario Ranch is the cream of the crop.
What sets Ontario Ranch apart from a lot of the other western IE communities is it’s a master plan consisting of several different master plans that were established in the city back in 2004-2005. The builders group formed a consortium to build, construct, and create infrastructure for that region, which is a former dairyland of 400 acres. Ontario Ranch is about half of that, with 20,000 homes in various villages and environments created by developers like Brookfield, Taylor Morrison, and others creating places that are planned. You can buy a home in a subdivision or in a master-planned community, but in a master-planned community you have a variety of amenities and services available to you. It’s the missing link in housing programs typically associated with the IE.
How is New Haven distinct from other developments within Ontario Ranch?
It’s by Brookfield, first of all, and we take a lot of care and spend a lot of time making sure that we’re going to get things as right as we possibly can when creating new communities. I’m in my 14th year at Brookfield, and I’ve learned that you have to have certain ingredients to make a master-planned community successful. With New Haven, we made sure we have the appropriate access off I-15 and Haven Ave. There’s a direct link to the metro station, airport and arena, which are each no more than a 15-minute drive away. So, being in the right location No. 1 makes us different.
No. 2 is that we are objective on New Haven. When we first started looking at it, before the recession, we did a restart and said, “Let’s do the largest private park in Ontario Ranch.” We did the research and found out that there were some other public parks, but Picnic Park is the largest private park in Ontario Ranch. It’s associated with a lot of amenities, and we’re able to provide home sites on a road around the park so that everyone has access to it and all eyes were on the park; it’s really a focal point for the community. This was the big idea at the very initiation of the project, and that particular component was very important to us.
Also, the whole region is outfitted with this gigabit Internet service, which is like bringing a 20-lane freeway into your computer compared to just a few years ago when you had just a two-lane dirt road.
What else is planned for Ontario Ranch and New Haven?
There will be a retail center on the southwest corner of Ontario Ranch Road and Haven Ave. that we believe will open in late 2019 or Q1 2020. We have not started development on that center yet, but we have received all the entitlements from the City, and it’s planned for 95,000 square feet of neighborhood retail. It’s part of a complete village: parking, shopping, amenities, and trails.
How would you characterize the general residential development climate in Ontario?
Ontario Ranch is doing very well right now, and it’s sort of playing out as we thought it might. Eastvale and College Park in Chino have come to almost a complete buildout — those two master-planned communities are adjacent to Ontario Ranch, and our theory was that once those areas started being built out, that development would push into this agricultural area that had been overlooked for the past 25 years. Once we got the infrastructure constructed as part of the consortium — and this was an over-$200 million investment to lift the community and get it ready for home-building and community building — once we were able to get those fundamentals in the ground, College Park and Eastvale slowly get built out, it would be primarily built out and doing what we thought: pushing into this area here.
It’s different from what the IE has been used to seeing. It’s doing really well because of where it’s located in the market and is the natural spot for growth to continue. The quality of the development is something we’re purposefully doing, and as a result, Ontario Ranch as a whole ended up being the 11th most-successful master-planned community in the entire country last year. That put us directly behind Stapleton in Denver and directly in front of Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County. Sales have been strong this year, and I would anticipate that we’ll move up on that list a little bit.
Just a few years ago, the market was really still unpredictable. But now, the first-time home buyer is finally getting out of the basement, out of the apartment, off the fence, and into the homebuying market. We’re seeing a lot of millennials at New Haven, which helps differentiate it from other communities at Ontario Ranch. There are a variety of condos, townhomes, and homes that have alleys and front-facing porches. It allows for a wide range of pricing to occur and allows millennials to get in and be part of a homeownership program. Other areas of Ontario Ranch have a lot of small-lot single-family development. We have that and more.