A group of home builders and a real estate investment company have teamed up for the largest dollar-volume land transaction in Arizona history, according to reports.

Home builders Toll Brothers Inc. and Meritage Homes Corp., along with real estate investment trust Simon Property Group Inc., this week announced the purchase of a 5,485-acre land parcel in northwest Phoenix for $312 million.

DaimlerChrysler has reportedly used the land, in Arizona’s Maricopa County, as a vehicle endurance testing and development facility.

“According to research published by The Arizona Republic, this represents the largest dollar-value land transaction recorded in Arizona history,” the home builders reported.

The property is bound by 183rd Avenue on the east, 211th Avenue on the west, Dove Valley on the south and Joy Ranch Road on the north. DaimlerChrysler will continue to lease the property for the next few years.

“Toll Brothers and Meritage Homes each plan to build a significant number of homes on the site. Simon Property Group Inc. has the option to purchase a substantial portion of the commercial property. Other parcels may be sold to third parties. Initial plans call for a mixed-use master planned community, which will include approximately 4,840 acres (about 7.6 square miles) of single-family homes and attached homes,” according to the announcement.

“Approximately 645 acres of commercial and retail development will include schools, community amenities and open space. Initial homes sales are tentatively scheduled to begin in 2009. According to the approved General Plan, the site allows between 15,000 to 31,000 homes.”

Robert I. Toll, chairman and chief executive officer of Toll Brothers Inc., said in a statement, “We are thrilled to have been chosen by DaimlerChrysler and to have teamed up with two excellent partners to develop this fabulous piece of real estate. The northwest area of Phoenix has experienced unprecedented popularity and this particular parcel is a highly coveted site.

Steven J. Hilton, co-chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes, stated, “Growth in and around the Phoenix area has been tremendous in the past decade. With more than 20 years of home building experience in the Phoenix area, Meritage Homes is proud to have participated in this development, which has contributed to our impressive growth rate for the past five-year period. We are very enthusiastic about this opportunity and look forward to working with Maricopa County and the City of Surprise, as well as Toll Brothers and Simon Property Group, to create an outstanding community in which to live, work, shop and play.”

Toll Brothers Inc. operates in 21 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Simon Property Group Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., is a real estate investment trust engaged in the ownership, development and management of retail real estate, primarily regional malls, Premium Outlet centers and community/lifestyle centers. The company’s current total market capitalization is approximately $41 billion. Through its subsidiary partnership, it currently owns or has an interest in 286 properties in the United States containing an aggregate of 200 million square feet of gross leasable area in 39 states plus Puerto Rico.

Simon also owns interests in 51 European shopping centers in France, Italy, and Poland; 5 Premium Outlet centers in Japan; and one Premium Outlet center in Mexico.

Meritage Homes Corp. operates in the Southern and Western United States, including six of the top 10 single-family housing markets in the country, and has reported 17 consecutive years of record revenues and net earnings.

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