Solar panels, a Spanish-style roof and a community fitness center?
Demands for new homes are changing in unique ways. Multifamily Executive – the industry magazine for larger-scale real estate developers – noted only last year that “if … you don’t have a pool or fitness center, it’s doubtful you’re going to compete.”
Louisiana developer David Waltemath certainly seems to understand that concept.
“We’re adding our second pool complex,” he said. “It’s pretty rare that anybody has more than one.”
Waltemath is the developer behind several southern Louisiana communities, including the massive Bedico Creek Preserve development in Madisonville. Encompassing 1,000 acres, the Bedico Creek Preserve project will complete with slightly less than 950 homes.
The new pool complex, due to be completed this year, is just the most recent of an amenities package at Bedico Creek. Residents can also make use of fishing piers, hiking trails, playgrounds and even a 9-hole disc golf course. “It’s an amenities package that, according to Waltemath, has propelled Bedico Creek to one of the top selling developments in St. Tammany Parish.”
“In St. Tammany Parish, there’s not a development that’s selling more,” Waltemath said.
In the past, buyers have sought value in the amount of physical house they could get for the money – large lawns, numerous rooms and big spaces, for example. But now, buyers seem to be increasingly willing to forego personal features for access to shared amenities. Millennials and baby boomers likely will find this new breed of development to their liking. Many mature buyers want to minimize their maintenance, without sacrificing activities. Meanwhile, millennials will relish increased opportunities for walkable developments that cultivate a sense of community.
Bedico Creek was a rare opportunity for Waltemath. The original plan for the land was for a golf community, but as those original plans faltered with the previous developer, Waltemath reimagined the space for a new kind of buyer. The Madisonville development now features 12 different neighborhoods, but also includes roughly 600 acres specifically set aside for green space, lakes and nature preserves.
“Parks and trails are the number one sought-after amenity in the country,” Waltemath said. “We’re fortunate to have a huge amenity package–and it’s showing in the absorption rate (the number of months it takes a currently listed home to sell).”
In southern Louisiana, land comes at a premium. The swampy nature of the region can make it challenging to find solid ground for new development. Despite this, Waltemath notes, people are not moving back into “the city” as much as the trends may indicate. Groups such as the Urban Land Institute – of which Waltemath has long been a member – touts the revitalization of downtowns in New Orleans and across the country. Waltemath said this excitement has created the myth that people don’t want to live in suburbs.
“Downtown living … is a lot more alive than it has ever been in the past,” he said. “But the vast majority of people like to live in the suburbs with a yard and a fence.”
To this end, developers are doing their part to redefine the concept of a suburb. The latest developments go beyond homebuilding, and instead use amenities to foster a sense of community. Developments are using their resources to build neighborhoods, not just homes. In Bedico Creek, for example, an activities director arranges group functions, including mini-parades, crawfish boils and more.
And when these developments are located within areas that boast good schools and close proximity to New Orleans, even city-minded buyers may take a second look.