Paul Gilbert tells Arizona Republic he expects the temple to benefit property values.

Jan 8, 2009
News (traditional)
Paul Gilbert

Chelsea Schneider, "Gilbert could see 'The Temple Effect'," The Arizona Republic, January 8, 2009, A1, A5

The Arizona Republic
Paul Gilbert, The Arizona Republic
General Public

Gilbert could see 'The temple effect'

Home values often rise near LDS sites

By Chelsea Shneider

The Arizona Republic

Homeowners near the proposed site of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Gilbert could see their property values increase, even in this depressed real-estate market.

As the focal point of the Mormon faith, a new temple tends to raise property values because church members like to live nearby. And for those outside the faith, temples have a reputation of being good neighbors and can anchor the long-term quality of an area.

The newest LDS temple in the U.S. opened in August in Twin Falls, Idaho. As has happened elsewhere, lots around the temple are now bringing higher prices than other places in the city.

Plans for the Gilbert temple were announced in April for a site on the corner of Pecos and Greenfield roads near Loop 202. Temples are also in the works for Phoenix and the Gila Valley in eastern Arizona. The site for the. . . See TEMPLE Page A5

Planned LDS temple could boost Gilbert


Continued from A1

. . . Phoenix temple will be announced soon.

Construction of three new temples reflects the growth of the LDS community in Arizona.

The new Gilbert temple is 13 miles south of the 81-year-old Mesa temple and is intended to serve the growing Mormon population in the southeast Valley, where about 100,000 Mormons live. The church recently built two Gilbert meetinghouses, where members gather on Sundays, and it expects to build more as Gilbert grows.

The Mormons hope to break ground for the Gilbert temple in about a year.

The new temple in Twin Falls provides a glimpse of what can happen in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Twin Falls’ experience

When the site of the Twin Falls temple was announced, property. values of houses across the street doubled overnight, Idaho developer Ken Edmunds said. This “temple effect” on a real-estate market is typical, Edmunds said.

Temples are considered houses of the Lord, and many of the Mormon faithful like to live in the shadows of their most sacred religious buildings.

Mormon temples also are relatively rare, so they attract people from wide areas. There are only 128 in the world. In recent years, the church’s leadership has pushed for more temples to be built. Eight are under construction and 10 have been announced, including the three for Arizona. The state now has two temples, in Mesa and Snowflake.

A temple isn’t a guarantee of desirable surroundings. The Mesa temple, the seventh-oldest still in operation, is surrounded by an area many say has deteriorated over time. The church and the city have worked on long-term rejuvenation plans.

But given the sprawling size of a temple’s grounds, along with the quality of design and landscaping, many temples form a desirable and stable center for surrounding residential areas.

Twin Falls, with a population of more than 41,000, is about 20 percent Mormon and serves as the commercial hub for several bedroom communities surrounding the southestern Idaho city. Before the temple was buildt, Twin Falls’ pervious claim to fame was being the site of Evel Knievel’s unsuccessful 1974 motorcycle jump across the Snake River Canyon.

In Twin Falls, demand for homes near the temple was high as soon as the site was announced. There were even rumors that investors were knocking on doors around the site with offers to buy. Today, lots in a three0block radius of the temple are still priced higher than comparable land elsewhere in the city. Values range from $115,000 to $150,000 near the temple but drop by up to $40,000 in areas farther out, according to Terry McCurdy, spokesman for the church in Twin Falls.

Up to five families already have moved into Ensign Point, a. custom home neighborhood around the temple. Before the temple was built, Twin Falls-area Mormons traveled two hours to Boise for temple work.

Temples are different from meetinghouses, where church members gather on Sundays. ?Only members in good standing with the church can enter the temple. Sacred ordinances, such as marriages (called sealings) and proxy baptisms for the dead, are performed there.

Dick and JoAnn Irwin were among the first to move into the neighborhood across the street from the temple site 2 1/2 years ago. The Irwins, who are not Mormon, sold their farmhouse on the outskirts of Twin Falls because they. were eager to move to an area that had a better setting than a typical suburban development.

“We couldn’t ask for better neighbors,” JoAnn said. “They did such a great job on the landscaping. It is beautiful and well taken care of.”

The economic downtown has reduced demand lately, said Gayle Anderson, a Twin Falls real-estate agent. Still, she said, “in a market that’s a little slower, I do feel (the temple) is a positive influence” and will still raise values once the market returns to normal.

In addition to raising home values, the temple has attracted three new major chain hotels in the area and plans for a fourth. About 160,000 people came to Twin Falls for a two-week public open house of the temple before it was dedicated. Now, 500 Mormons visit the temple every day, and weddings are held almost every weekend.

Spiritual attraction

Although some are drawn to the temple area for good home values, more may move close for spiritual reasons.

In the neighborhood near the Twin Falls temple, several couples said they didn’t even consider property values. Instead, they wanted to live near a sacred space.

Dennis Brown and his wife, Valerie, live next to the development, the fulfillment of a dream that began four years ago when they heard the church would build a temple in Twin Falls.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Dennis said. “To me, it’s such a blessing in my life. We wanted our kids and grandchildren when they came to visit to literally come to the temple.”

The Browns’ neighbors, Steve and Sally Victor, moved into their Ensign point home in November. They never intended to sell their home in Twin Falls, but the draw of the temple was too strong.

“When I wake up in the morning and look out the window, I have the resolve and determination to live through the day and keep the covenants of being an honest and hardworking person,” Steve said.

Brent and Marilyn Rasmussen live across the street from Ensign Point. They moved back to Idahoto be near the temple. Both grew up east of Twin Falls and lived in Portland, Ore., for 17 years. Brent, a retired FBI agent, says the temple serves as a visual reminder that he needs to keep his life in tune.

“(The temple) brings people closer together,” Marilyn said. “Members of the church got really excited and drew closer together. It’s the house of the Lord. It’s a beautiful edifice and a symbol of good in the community.”

Plans in Gilbert

Back in Gilbert, final plans for the temple still need town approval. The church hopes to begin construction in about a year. Temples can take up to two years to build.

The temple grounds will occupy about 10 acres. There have been talks about developing a custom-home neighborhood nearby.

If Gilbert mirrors Twin Falls, homeowners can expect gains even in a depressed housing market. The median home price for the area near the Gilbert temple site is now $255,000, down $20,000 from last year.

A few months ago, about 30 people filled a room in the Mormon meetinghouse near Pecos and Greenfield roads to learn about the Gilbert temple. Several neighbors from Whitewing at Higley Estates attended the meeting. They hoped the temple would keep houses occupied in the upscale Gilbert development, which borders the temple site.

Paul Gilbert, an attorney handling the temple project for the church, told the crowd he expects the temple to benefit property values, especially once construction begins.

“From our experiences, temples have definitely raised property values of surrounding residential areas,” Gilbert said. “It’s an extremely quiet use. You’ll never hear noise emanating from the temple, and the church is very careful to use very generous setbacks from the street.”

Kris Thompson, chairman of Gilbert’s economic-advisory board, said that property values have at least stabilized around the temple site and that he expects to see more growth, especially after construction begins.

“There is an undercurrent or buzz taking place around the area the temple is set to be constructed,” Thompson said. “Once we see ground break, property values will likely increase.’

Potential Developments around the Gilbert temple

Officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints overseeing plans for the Gilbert temple anticipate it will positively affect property values once it begins to go up.

In the neighborhood directly adjacent to the temple site, property values for Whitewing at Higley range from $600,000 to the mid-$800,000s, according to the Maricopa County Assessors Office.

The neighborhood is located east of the proposed temple site on Pecos Road.

Other potential developments around the temple site:

-- A custom-home neighborhood, tentatively named Greenfield Farms, will be built around the temple site in the corner of Greenfield and Pecos roads near Loop 202.

-- Retail and commercial development will fill the vacant southwestern corner of Greenfield and Pecos roads.

— Chelsea Schneider and Katherine Greene

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