ULI member David L. Waltemath ranks among the top residential developers in the New Orleans metro area. ULI recently sat down with David, Scott and Kelly Waltemath to profile their real estate development operation.
ULI: How did you get started in real estate development?
DW: I’ve always been involved. Two generations of my family were successful real estate developers before me. My father, Henry “Hank” Waltemath, carved out many of the major neighborhoods in Algiers on the Westbank of New Orleans.
Today, I’m proud to say, we have a fourth generation involved in our developments. My son, Scott Waltemath, has a passion for development. He serves as Director of Builders and Lot Sales on our projects. My daughter, Kelly Waltemath, is a recent LSU graduate and is already a multi-million dollar producing Realtor® with Keller Williams New Orleans. She is Director of New Construction and Resales for our group and also lists private homes on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain.
I shouldn’t omit my wife, Kathy, either. She has made way too many civic contributions to cover, including past president and board member of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which she helped found. Community involvement should not be under estimated.
ULI: When did you realize you’d become a successful developer yourself?
DW: There’s always a defining moment in every career, I suppose. Mine occurred in 1986 when I assembled a partnership to develop English Turn on the Westbank. USF&G Chairman Jack Moseley helped us create the PGA’s New Orleans tour stop, the USF&G Golf Classic. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Bob Sierra, and their team pulled the golf course together. Cap Caplinger designed a beautiful land plan for the community.
Ironically, I’d never picked up a golf club until I started working on English Turn.
ULI: Scott, tell us about some other projects your team has been involved with.
SW: Right now, we have a successful master-planned community, The Parks of Plaquemines, on Woodland Highway in Plaquemines Parish and another new one in the same area, Cypress Park, under development for 2018.
Bedico Creek Preserve in Madisonville has been a landmark project for us. It was originally a failed golf community. Our team re-envisioned the initial plan and bought the failed operation. We replaced the course with more than 500 acres of permanent nature preserves, paved walking/hiking trails, parks, lakes and green space. The past three years, we’ve been smashing home sales records on the Northshore. At year-end 2018, we were selling 129% more homes than our nearest competitor! We have more than 400 homes completed or under construction. Bedico is undoubtedly St. Tammany’s most successful real estate turnaround ever.
We’ve had other successful developments post English Turn like The Estates of Northpark in Covington, The Highlands of Santa Maria and Green Trails in Baton Rouge, plus Punta Gorda Harbor in Charlotte County, Florida. The company has done some commercial projects, as well (Chevron, Entergy, Conoco buildings at The Timbers office park on the Westbank).
ULI: Kelly, what do you believe has made Waltemath Interests so strong?
KW: We have generations of experience. Falling back on that is simply priceless.
Dad has a genuine, innate sense of what will sell and what makes a viable project. He always gives buyers the long-term investment potential they’re looking for. He watches the market stats and stays on track fiscally, not over-building or under-building. I’d say he has an amazing talent for staying on budget, while still creating a community where people truly enjoy living. He wants our work to make the entire area a better place than before we built it.
I also think it’s important to note that Dad knows how to build a team. Our projects encompass the cooperation of local Realtors and the construction pros building the homes. A standout community must ultimately be lucrative for everyone involved. He has also assembled a talented team of experienced marketing, communications and online specialists who unfailingly make us look terrific in the media and online.
I believe our projects are special because David Waltemath knows how to build more than just a development. He knows how to build a team.
Rest assured, at Waltemath Interests, there’s a carefully-considered plan behind the magic.
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Honorees Chosen for 2018 ‘Excellence in Construction and Real Estate’ Class
David L. Waltemath has been nominated by City Business in New Orleans as an Honoree for the Excellence in Construction and Real Estate class of 2018. He and his companies Classic Properties and Waltemath Interests will be profiled and honored by City Business for the Development category.
A special Excellence in Construction and Real Estate insert profiling all honorees will run in the September 28 issue of CityBusiness, and an event will be held to celebrate this year’s winners on September 10 from 5-7:30 p.m. at the New Orleans Museum of Art. For ticket information contact Marilyn Miller at 504-293-9201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations can be made online here. For more information contact Web Editor/Event Coordinator Meghan Keen at 504-293-9253 or email@example.com.
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Reacting to recent interest rate announcements the real estate market is bracing itself for changes stemming from a return to pre-recession economy.
As this affects the real estate market, potentially slowing it, experts are seeing buyers — particularly millennials, who are expected to account for more than 40 percent of sales this year — take a more holistic approach to home values when choosing to buy.
Larger community developments, in particular, stand to factor high in many buyers’ lists.
Developer David Waltemath said gradual rate hikes favor communities that offer amenities such as green spaces and community swimming pools.
Waltemath is the owner of Classic Properties, whose projects include a Good Growth Award-winner with the Santa Maria Golf Community near Baton Rouge in 2003, English Turn in Algiers, The Parks of Plaquemines in Belle Chasse, and more recently, 1,000 acres in Madisonville — Bedico Creek Preserve. “In 2017, Bedico Creek sold more than 90 homes ranging in price from the mid $250,000s to more than $1 million,” reports Waltemath, “ranking it at the top of St. Tammany home sales.”
Though implementation varies, master-planned communities typically involve larger tracts of land. The advantage for buyers is they get more than just a home on a typical sized lot.
Waltemath notes that Classic Properties doesn’t build homes, but rather develops the areas and subdivides it into lots, which are then sold to builders and future homeowners.
“We’re selling these lots for the same price as a developer down the street, who does not have the luxury that we have at Bedico Creek,” Waltemath said. “Home buyers are essentially getting (the amenities) for free.”
The Bedico Creek “luxury” Waltemath refers to includes two community pools with pavilions, a Rod & Paddle Club, playground, an engineered system of paved walking/biking trails, non-motorized boating/fishing, and more than 500 acres of greenspace, parks, lakes and nature preserves with rustic trails winding throughout.
Additionally, 200 acres at Bedico Creek that are technically open to lot development have been saved for future community upgrades. Waltemath said the available space allows the homeowners to continue to build value long after the roughly 900 lots are completed. As an example, he said, the current nine-hole disc golf course could be expanded to 18-holes if the Homeowners Association choses.
Another trend Waltemath said he and others are seeing is that new home buyers are securing lots long before they build. Buying the lot first allows buyers who might have less buying power to secure the ideal location first, and build their home later.
“Lots of people will buy a lot and say, ‘We wanted to buy now, because this lot won’t be here in three years,” Waltemath said. “That’s a great concept for young buyers or those planning retirement options.”
This trend is likely a response to a rising trend of home buyers staying in place. For the past decade, a limited supply of new construction has fueled sales of existing homes. But experts forecast a bullish year of new construction, which will mark a slowdown in the market for existing homes.
Though many buyers are rushing to secure low interest rates, Waltemath said there likely won’t be any sales disruption from the expected rising rates, as long as the increase is steady. Any market anxiety, he said, can be attributed to a generation of new buyers who see three and four percent interest rates as the norm, noting that few, if any, analysts see interest rates spiking to what they were before the recession.
“Interest rates will have an impact, of course, but most older people would say normal interest rates are between six and seven percent,” Waltemath said. “I don’t see anything that will cause the real estate market to freeze — there’s still a big demand out there.”
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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.
By Kim Chatelain, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 02, 2016 at 2:44 PM, updated June 02, 2016 at 2:56 PM
There exists a theory in real estate development that the second mouse often gets the cheese. Meaning, the first developer on large projects is prone to stumble, setting the stage for the second one to reap benefits.
Ergo, meet David Waltemath, the second mouse at Bedico Creek, an almost 1,000-acre subdivision that was left for dead in west St. Tammany Parish a decade ago. Waltemath, a third generation developer whose resumé includes English Turn in Algiers, Santa Maria and Green Trails in Baton Rouge and The Estates of Northpark near Covington, made an outside-the-box decision to convert Bedico Creek into what he calls a “conservation community,” and it appears to be paying dividends.
Gone are plans to form yet another golf course community along the lines of Beau Chene, Tchefuncta Club Estates, Money Hill and Covington Country Club. Instead, the land that was previously earmarked for greens and fairways is part of about 550 acres now allocated for parks, green space and a nature preserve, with miles of walking trails accessible only to Bedico Creek residents.
Rather than trying to cram more houses and man-made amenities on the property, Waltemath has filled the sand traps, pulled the pins on the putting surfaces and returned to nature what was once nine holes of fledgling golf course. He said dedicating more than half the property to parks and green space is feasible because he bought the defunct, partially developed Bedico Creek golf community at the bargain price of about $5 million from a group of bankers in 2010.
His redevelopment concept seems to be working. Waltemath says he sold 86 properties in the subdivision in 2015, making it one of the hottest selling spots on the North Shore, if not the New Orleans region. He thinks buyers are attracted to the peacefulness of country-style living within 14 miles of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, 3 1/4 miles of Interstate 12 and less than 6 miles from shopping areas of Covington.
A unique sales pitch is used to market Bedico Creek’s residential properties amid the vast greenery that is accessible only to the home owners in the gated subdivision: “Buy a lot, get 500 acres free.”
Land of litigation
Nestled on the western edge of St. Tammany Parish northwest of Madisonville, Bedico Creek was one of the region’s most ballyhooed residential development proposals. In 1996, Covington businessman John Poole proposed more than 1,600 homes and a 27-hole golf course on 988 acres.
Opponents organized under the Save St. Tammany banner came out hard against the development, asserting that a subdivision of that many homes was too dense for the mostly rural area. The group sued in 1997, taking the case all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court, contending the parish government violated local zoning codes when it rezoned the property.
The courts ruled against Save St. Tammany. But the stiff opposition prompted a revision of the development plan, to 942 homes around an 18-hole golf course, and Save St. Tammany endorsed the scale-down proposal.
Even with a reduced density, Bedico Creek was to be one of the largest residential developments in St. Tammany. The largest is Beau Chene near Mandeville, which sprawls over 1,200 acres with two 18-hole golf courses and 1,500 homes.
But Poole never actually broke ground on the property. Stymied by litigation and market conditions, the Bedico Creek project languished until George McClure, an award-winning Atlanta developer, stepped in and bought it from Poole for $7.35 million in March of 2005. That summer, McClure began work on what was to be a 10-phase, 942-lot, gated golf-course subdivision.
Hurricane Katrina cancelled McClure’s kickoff party, scheduled for early September 2005, but McClure resumed work in 2006. St. Tammany Parish gave his company, Upland Properties, permission to sell 109 homesites in Bedico Creek. Streets were cut, houses began to rise and work on the first nine holes of the golf course neared completion
Soon, however, work came to a screeching halt. On Aug. 10, Marshall Investments sued Upland Properties in federal court, contending the company had defaulted on loans of $16 million and $1.7 million, records show. That lawsuit triggered others from Boh Brothers Construction Co., the main contractor that was hired to build Bedico Creek, and from the subdivision’s early settlers, who were dismayed that the company failed to complete the golf course and other amenities as promised in their purchase agreements.
Before long, what was expected to be a jewel of the North Shore had become a symbol of the national housing crash. Many of Bedico Creek’s houses sat empty, choked by tall weeds around a weathered golf course that was never finished.
While other areas in St. Tammany were buzzing with building activity to accommodate Katrina refugees seeking higher ground, Bedico Creek was dormant. Parish Councilman Marty Dean, whose district includes Bedico Creek, said he remembers driving through the subdivision one day and being amazed at its condition.
“It just looked awful,” Dean said. “There couldn’t have been much more than about 10 (inhabited) houses, and grass everywhere was knee high.”
Getting the cheese
In 2010, Waltemath assumed ownership of the property, saying at the time that he saw an “incredible opportunity at an incredible price.” The price was $5 million for the 988 acres of high and dry property in booming St. Tammany.
Waltemath said he knew right away that changes were in order. The North Shore already had its share of golf courses, many of them struggling to make ends meet.
“Golf was never going to work,” Waltemath said in a recent interview. “So the question became what do we want to do with it?”
After taking a hard look at the property, Waltemath and his associates, namely his children Scott and Kelly, came upon the idea of a “conservation community” that would use the property’s natural assets as an advantage, rather than felling trees for more houses and golfing. “We wanted it to feel like St. Tammany used to be,” he said.
Doing away with the golf course didn’t sit well with some who had moved into the community under the pretense of living on the links. Dean, the Parish Council member, said he recalls several heated meetings to discuss abandoning the course. But things have calmed down considerably at Bedico Creek, he said.
“I’ve not heard the first word or complaint in more than two years,” Dean said. “My impression is that he convinced people that a golf course would lose money.”
Real estate analyst Wade Ragas said many golf course communities are struggling and might eventually have to be repurposed. “We have today a surplus of golf courses in the New Orleans metro area,” he said. “We have a surplus of holes and a slow growth in the number of golfers.”
What emerged from Waltemath’s reforming of the community is a development of 12 small neighborhoods within Bedico Creek, each with its own identity and price range. In sum, the community consists of 930 homesites of various lot sizes with home prices ranging from $250,000 to more than $1 million.
When Waltemath bought the property, he estimates that less than 20 homes were occupied. There are now about 200 homes occupied or under construction and about 300 more lots in various phases of development.
Bedico Creek consists of 173 acres of park space and a conservation area that measures 377 acres. The subdivision’s promotional material says “It’s like having a 500 acre backyard.”
Asked how so much property can be left undeveloped in a financially feasible development, Waltemath says, “The last guy (developer) paid for it.”
Western St. Tammany real estate broker David Holloway said he thinks Waltemath’s unique concept with different pricing points, along with low interest rates and a booming St. Tammany economy, have spelled success for the new version of Bedico Creek. “What they are doing there is working. … It fits the market,” Holloway said.
“It was very smart of him to segregate the neighborhood by price points. He hit the nail on the head with his recipe.”
According to numbers provided by Holloway from the Multiple Listing Service, homes sold in Bedico Creek over the past year ranged in price from $242,900 to $526,000. The price per square foot was from $124 to $161, the average time on the market was 96 days.
Sales in the subdivision have been on a steep climb, rising from 29 in 2014 to 86 last year. Bedico Creek reported only 9 sales in 2013.
Waltemath he hopes that when fully developed the 12 neighborhoods within its boundaries will make Bedico Creek a “multi-generational” community that will have first-time home buyers, top dollar properties and everything in between. He thinks Bedico Creek’s metamorphosis is progressing nicely.
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By NOLA.com Content Marketing Team
on March 13, 2016 at 2:00 AM, updated March 13, 2016 at 2:02 AM
Room to roam… that sums up one of the top amenities homeowners want.
“What is attractive for the consumer is the green space, shops in the area, schools, medical care and convenience,” said David Waltemath, developer of Bedico Creek Preserve in Madisonville. “But the No. 1 amenity is open green space with water views, walking/biking paths and hiking trails.”
Waltemath is well aware of the industry research. He’s an experienced local developer known for creating some of the most successful communities in the metro area, such as English Turn and The Estates of Northpark. His current developments include Bedico Creek Preserve and The Parks of Plaquemines, with additional neighborhoods underway in Baton Rouge.
Studies such as the one by the University of Washington have shown that exposure to green space and encounters with nature not only provide opportunities for physical activity, but also can do wonders for a person’s psyche, such as alleviating mental fatigue.
According to a 2010 article on americantrails.org, “People living in walkable neighborhoods get about 35–45 more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and are substantially less likely to be overweight or obese, than do people of similar socioeconomic status living in neighborhoods that are not walkable.”
“What’s also important,” Waltemath said, “is how the green space is utilized.” He noted Bedico Creek’s plethora of options serve as a great complement to the open environment. Bedico Creek Preserve, occupying approximately 1,000 acres, is a master-planned, multi-generational community surrounded by approximately 60 percent green space.
What is attractive for the consumer is the green space, shops in the area, schools, medical care and convenience.
Bedico Creek Preserve’s utilization of space includes paved walking paths and rustic hiking trails that meander through the neighborhoods and nature preserves, several sparkling lakes and ponds, a community swimming pool, a party pavilion, children’s playground, a quaint fishing pier and a nine-hole disc golf course.
Waltemath likens the Bedico Creek Preserve environment to the St. Tammany of yesteryear, which likely pleases north shore homeowners devoted to preserving their green heritage with a relaxed, natural, ecologically sound environment.
Bedico Creek Preserve, occupying approximately 1,000 acres, is a master-planned, multi-generational community surrounded by approximately 60 percent green space.
With 10 individual neighborhoods priced from the mid $250’s to more than $1 million, and two new neighborhoods opening this year, Bedico Creek Preserve appeals to many price ranges and lifestyles. Its carefully screened, preferred builders can assist homeowners in creating exactly what they’re looking for, from low-maintenance homes to executive estates, or buyers can bring their own builder with prior approval.
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