Larry H. Miller’s real estate arm makes big move, buys booming Daybreak in South Jordan

Deal will expand the Sandy-based firm’s housing footprint and comes as sales of homes in the master-planned community are reaching new records.

(Trent Nelson | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) A man fishing at Oquirrh Lake in Daybreak on Thursday, April 2, 2020. The Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. is buying a large piece of Daybreak.

Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. announced Monday it is acquiring a major chunk of Daybreak, the master-planned community in South Jordan.

The Miller Group’s real estate arm is buying more than 1,300 undeveloped acres in the eclectic residential community at the west end of South Jordan, including ownership interest in existing commercial properties as well as future commercial and residential development.

Terms of the transaction were not released. The purchase, officials noted, doesn’t involve existing Daybreak homes.

The substantial deal for Utah’s residential markets was unveiled by Steve Starks, CEO of the Sandy-based Larry H. Miller Group, and Brendan Bosman, managing director of Värde Partners, the Minneapolis investment firm that bought most of Daybreak from Rio Tinto Kennecott in 2016.

Brad Holmes, president of Larry H. Miller Real Estate, said the acquisition will expand the company’s real estate footprint, within a portfolio now centered on sports, auto dealerships, a chain of movie theaters, finance, insurance and health care.

“We are a builder of communities and are committed to the continued success of this nationally ranked and thriving master-planned development,” Holmes said in a written statement. The firm hoped to “creatively and proactively address regional growth through mixed-use planning and development.”

Larry H. Miller Group continues to branch out

This is the second purchase of its kind announced by the business empire since it sold off its majority interest in the Utah Jazz in October, to Ryan Smith, founder of the Provo-based customer-management technology firm Qualtrics.

Managers for the company founded by late Jazz owner Larry Miller, who died in 2009, said in January they had purchased Advanced Health Care Corp., an Idaho-born chain of high-end nursing care, home health and hospice centers spread over Utah and seven other states.

Daybreak was built and opened in 2004 below the Oquirrh Mountains on a cleaned-up portion of Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Mine operations. It is designed to be sustainable and pedestrian-friendly, blending a variety of housing types into denser neighborhoods and smaller yards than are typical in most Utah suburbs, with home clusters surrounded with ample open spaces.

Kennecott’s parent company, Rio Tinto, sold Värde Partners the community’s finished homes, about 2,500 acres of undeveloped land, Oquirrh Lake and several major commercial buildings in June 2016, saying the divestment would generate “cash flow and flexibility as we streamline our business and focus on mining.”

The sale also coincided with a decline in commodity prices that had forced layoffs for Rio Tinto’s Utah operations.

Since it opened in 2004, Daybreak has mushroomed to include more than 6,000 homes with roughly 21,000 residents. It now ranks among the most successful master-planned communities in the country.

Homes sales in the 4,000-acre development have grown dramatically in recent years, particularly with heightened housing demand and a national flight to the suburbs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We look forward to building on the already established success of this community with the remaining undeveloped commercial area and the thousands of residences to be built within this regional destination area,” Starks said in a news release.

Elected officials welcome the Daybreak sale

The deal drew praise from elected officials, including Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who noted that a large portion of the county’s population growth was happening in that southwestern part of the Salt Lake Valley.

Wilson said in a written statement that she “look forward to working with Larry H. Miller Real Estate and other stakeholders to develop plans that support job growth, open spaces and recreation, strong infrastructure and community destinations.”

South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey added that with a significant portion of Daybreak still undeveloped, she was “thrilled” to welcome the Larry H. Miller team to her city “to benefit current and future homeowners, employers and businesses.”

Holmes said the acquisition “aligns perfectly with our real estate development and property management capabilities.”

Under its ownership, Värde has sought to boost the mix of housing options in Daybreak, while also investing in key commercial pieces in the suburban community, including an expansion of a University of Utah Hospital campus, opening a veterans outpatient clinic, and luring a new Salt Lake County library, to open this fall.

The real estate investment firm has also pushed forward plans for a major network of interconnected water channels and lakes within Daybreak, known as the Watercourse amenity.

Värde said its investment approach had also helped boost homes sales in the community. While Daybreak had already represented a notably large share of total Salt Lake County homes sales before COVID-19, recent data indicates those sales have skyrocketed from 452 in 2016 to 1,055 last year.

“We are proud of where the community is today,” said Bosman, Värde’s managing director, “and we are looking forward to following Daybreak’s continued success under the Larry H. Miller Group’s stewardship.”