Imagine a master planned community that runs on solar power and features a Hyperloop test track to help usher in the next mode of mass transit. For Jon Lash, a home building veteran with nearly 30 years of experience, his task is to make that vision a reality. The project is unlike anything he—or anyone else—has done before. “This could be a real game changer for the whole building industry,” he says.

Quay Valley, a proposed 7,200-acre fully sustainable community in California’s Central Valley, will be a new city built from the ground up. It’ll include schools, parks, and retail and office space, among other necessities. “We’ve got to have all the essentials on day one to ensure the project is a success,” says Lash, the project’s president and chief operating officer.

From the Ground Up
The land, almost equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco, has been designated as non-prime farmland. For years, developer Quay Hays has been removing the land from farm production through California’s Williamson Act, which gives property tax relief to farmland and open-space land owners in exchange for a 10-year commitment that the land will not be developed or converted to another use. Earlier this year, Hays and his Los Angeles–based company GROW (Green Renewable Organic & Water) Holdings resubmitted an application to have the land rezoned for residential and commercial development. The plan, Lash says, is to secure all entitlements by the end of 2016. 

For Lash, the project’s success will hinge on one thing: jobs. “One of the biggest challenges for new communities or towns of this size is creating jobs,” he says. “You can’t get enough sales velocity if all you’re doing is building houses.” He could not disclose which companies are considering relocating to Quay Valley.

In his career—which includes 28 years at California-based Pardee Homes—Lash has overseen 30 master planned communities and developed more than 80,000 residential lots. But Quay Valley is different, he says, noting that he’s “built plenty of infill projects where you’re just connecting into existing infrastructure. In this case we can really go out and start a whole new city and use all this latest and greatest technology to do it right.” 

Many Years to Go
Once the entitlements are approved, Lash’s team will start to build three highway interchanges to connect Quay Valley to Interstate 5, California’s major north-south roadway. The project includes 5 1/2 miles of land on each side of I-5, which gives it great exposure, Lash notes.

GROW plans to set Quay Valley apart from other communities with its green technology. In addition to building practices that include energy-saving materials such as radiant barriers, each of the proposed 26,000 homes will be equipped with solar power. When the project opens—it has a target move-in date of 2020—home prices will start at $275,000, Lash says.

But perhaps the biggest differentiator is not something Lash will help build. GROW struck a deal with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to build a 5-mile test track in Quay Valley; construction is to start in 2016. It will use a vacuum-like tube to transport people at speeds in excess of 700 mph. Lash calls it the project’s wild card. “Whereas much of California was developed for the last century,” he says, “we’re developing for the 21st century.”