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Partners in Placemaking Award

26 March . 2021

Congratulations SWABACK Architects + Planners 2021 Robert B. McLeod Partners in Placemaking Award Winner

After more than seven years in visioning and planning, the village of Lucero in Estrella rose from a commitment forged between Newland, nature, and its partners. Since 2005 Newland has gathered the best architects, planners, and top builders to create one of the most desirable master-planned communities in the nation, Estrella, all while preserving and enhancing the natural wonders and beauty of the Southwest Sonoran Desert and enriching the lives of its residents. Today, Newland is extraordinarily proud to announce that in celebration of more than five decades of award-winning placemaking, it has chosen to honor SWABACK Architects + Planners for their dedication, vision, and customer-centric partnership. SWABACK is being recognized for its design of the village of Lucero and Casa Lucero in Estrella, incorporating key land elements of the Sierra Estrella Mountains creating an exceptional place while enhancing and protecting the value, desirability, and attractiveness of the land.

The Inaugural 2021 Robert B. McLeod Partners in Placemaking Award

The Robert B. McLeod Partners in Placemaking award honors exceptional work of innovation and collaboration while celebrating the legacy of Newland’s founder, Robert B. McLeod. Nominations were submitted by Newland team members throughout the country, spotlighting the partner's accomplishments and teamwork to design, problem-solve, and enrich the lives of residents. Submissions were reviewed by a panel of judges and voted on by Newland team members to select the winners. In addition to industry-wide recognition, the award also includes monetary contributions to community service and charitable organizations serving the needs of veterans, food banks, and sustainability foundations. Acknowledging the collaborative work to make Newland communities exceptional, these donations target local nonprofits and community-based organizations with missions to improve the greater community and region.

"Our partners are an integral part of giving the customers what they want and responding to how they want to live," explains Bob McLeod, Executive Chairman of Newland and the award's namesake. "Some of our relationships go back decades, and these partners have made significant contributions to the development of our communities nationwide. They are integral to our process of creating communities."

Bob McLeod and Vern Swaback, the founding partner of SWABACK Architects + Planners, have known one another for nearly four decades and have worked on multiple developments including the well-known Mountain Park Ranch in Phoenix. Swaback’s love for the desert then and now is at the center of making exceptional communities in Arizona.

Lucero Planning & Development

Reflecting on the planning and development of Lucero, Swaback commented, “From our first kick-off meeting until we opened Lucero, you could feel the passion of the entire Newland and Estrella teams. Everyone knew and understood just how special this piece of land was and they entrusted us to treat Lucero with that same respect for the land and to deliver a village that would only get better with time.”

The inspiration occurred during one of the first working meetings with Newland on the project. “The focus of the meeting had turned to a series of topics associated with technical constraints and potential limitations,” Swaback continued. “Bob (McLeod) could sense we were all losing a little steam and excitement, so his response was timely.  He simply said, ‘we’ll address all these obstacles in due time, but for now, let’s focus on the art of the possible.” The “Art of the Possible” set the tone for the entire project moving forward. 

“In one of our very first visits to the property, we hiked up to the highest point on the property to get a unique perspective of the terrain, views, and context. We later incorporated a very intricate trail system into the overall community design, including a trail connection up to that very same high point on the property- called Reflection Point.” 
From there, SWABACK quickly zeroed in on their strategy to create a totally connected community, reinforced by the Casa Lucero Welcome Center at the north end and the Ladera Community Park along the south side. These two wonderful mixed-use amenity social hubs encourage community gathering and interaction. Once the vision was approved; SWABACK was then retained to prepare all the new entitlements and City approvals, then the detailed overall site layout and design, then the architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design for Casa Lucero, which opened in 2019.

Well done, SWABACK and Newland. Estrella residents and the greater community salute you!