When Woman’s Hospital acquired the 225-acre former Briarwood Golf Course property on Airline Highway in 2001 for just $5.8 million, or 59 cents per square foot, hospital officials knew they were getting a good deal in an area of the parish that was bound to grow.
But they had no idea the southeast quadrant of East Baton Rouge Parish would experience the economic boom that it has in the past 17 years. Today—some $1 billion or so in investment later—the Airline Highway corridor is among Baton Rouge’s fastest growing areas and the hospital is moving forward with plans to capitalize on it.
Those plans involve a new unit development called Materra, which Woman’s is developing with businessman and developer John Engquist on 100 acres of its still-undeveloped land fronting Airline Highway to the east of the hospital complex.
The development will include some 275 single-family homes in a variety of sizes and price points, and, eventually, a multifamily complex with an estimated 300 units, and as much as 13 acres of commercial retail and restaurant space.
Woman’s will not be selling the land to Engquist, whom it selected from among 11 developers that submitted proposals to the hospital. It is making the land available to him for infrastructure development, which will cost an estimated $20 million. Engquist will then sell shovel-ready lots to homebuilders, which will include his own Engquist-Level Development as well as three or four custom builders.
Engquist, who is also developing Americana in Zachary and Rouzan in Southdowns, among others, will not be involved in developing the commercial or multifamily components of Materra.
Hospital officials say the goal of the project is twofold. First, to be a good steward of the property and develop it in such a way that will benefit the community and serve the hospital. Second, to create an income stream that will benefit the hospital in an era of uncertainty in healthcare funding.
“Some 50 percent of our revenues come from Medicaid and we don’t know what the future of Medicaid is,” says Woman’s Senior Vice President of Planning, Development and Construction Stan Shelton. “That is just the reality, so the idea is to create something to give us some cushion.”
Some of that cushion will come from the sale of the residential lots. Woman’s also plans to make money off of developing the commercial acreage of the project.
Materra is the latest of several components on Woman’s overall 200-acre campus, which includes the $350 million hospital and physician’s office tower, the recently opened Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion, a birthing center currently under construction and a planned child care center that will accommodate more than 200 children of hospital employees.
It’s also one of the most ambitious in that it will include a variety of housing types in sizes and price points that will span the gamut.
Those lots will include townhomes, garden homes on 20-foot lots, single-family detached homes on 50-foot lots, and manor homes of as much as 6,000 square feet on lots of 60-by-120 feet. Price points will range from the mid-$250,000s to more than $1 million, Engquist estimates.
“You’ll have product for all ranges, across the board, which is really the vision of a TND,” Engquist says.
Significantly, the development will be adjacent to new BASIS charter school that is developing a 35,000-square-foot school on a 9.67-acre tract it acquired from Woman’s in May 2017. The school, with its nationally renowned academically rigorous program, opens this fall to students in grades K-4.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the final development plan for Materra at its June meeting. If approved, infrastructure work could begin in August or September.
See a master site plan of the developments in the works at Woman’s.