A new housing development in Mesa, Ariz., brings together affordability, sustainability, and the arts. 

El Rancho del Arte in Mesa, Ariz., is providing 66 units of affordable housing and engaging residents through art.
El Rancho del Arte in Mesa, Ariz., is providing 66 units of affordable housing and engaging residents through art.

Residents, the majority who are families with children, started moving into the 66-unit El Rancho del Arte, developed by Community Development Partners (CDP), in July. The two- and three-bedroom units feature spacious layouts for the families as well as energy-efficient features.

Twenty-four units are set aside for households earning 40% of the area median income (AMI), 30 are at 50% of the AMI, and 11 are at 60% of the AMI. There also is a manager’s unit.

According to Eric Paine, CEO of the Newport Beach, Calif.–based developer, downtown Mesa has a thriving arts scene and the development team decided from the get-go to incorporate arts into the development.

“We designed El Rancho del Arte through a thoughtful, human-centered collaboration with the local Mesa stakeholders. We involved the community and local artists to create a housing culture that supports the arts and encourages community engagement,” says Paine. “We are very proud of the outcome as we feel we have achieved our goal of raising the bar on affordable housing.”

The development features multiple art installations as well as programming to inspire the residents to be part of the creative process.

The project features multiple artistic components, including staircases that feature quotes and poems by contemporary thought leaders and ancient thinkers.
The project features multiple artistic components, including staircases that feature quotes and poems by contemporary thought leaders and ancient thinkers.

The building’s staircases feature quotes and poems from contemporary thought leaders and ancient philosophers. Mandalas, meaning “circle” in Sanskrit, have been incorporated into the building’s exterior and include natural shapes and patterns found on historic baskets and pottery in the region.

Art pieces commissioned from local artists adorn the walls, and nonprofit Cultural Coalition teaches arts classes on a regular basis as part of the development’s after-school program.


“The kids love it, and the parents love it. It helps elevate the quality of life there,” says Paine.

Additional services to engage residents include educational classes for parents and community building events. Services and programming is provided by local nonprofit A New Leaf.

The transit-oriented development includes structured parking, bicycle parking, and easy access to the light-rail line. Other amenities include community garden boxes, a courtyard playground, BBQ and picnic areas, a swimming pool with hand-painted tiles, a media room, and a computer center.

The $14.2 million development was financed with low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) allocated by the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH), which also provided gap financing through the HOME program and the state’s Housing Trust Fund. Alliant Capital was the LIHTC syndicator, with JPMorgan Chase as the investor. Additional funding included a construction loan from Chase and HOME funds from the city of Mesa.

Perlman Architects designed the development, while ICON Builders served as the general contractor.

The second phase of the development is under way and has received an award of LIHTCs from ADOH. CDP plans to break ground on the 47-unit project in February. The development team also is exploring a community-supported food business accelerator program with a commercial kitchen.