What was declared to be the “final frontier” by Business Report nearly a decade ago has been filling up as housing developments enter their second and third phases but it’s still one of the few remaining areas with ample space for new housing and community growth.
In 2011, the southernmost portion of East Baton Rouge Parish, locked between River Road, Nicholson Drive, and South Bluebonnet Boulevard, had just opened up as newly completed road projects, including the Staring Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard extensions, allowed better access for development.
Now though, developer Mike Wampold says it’s not the final frontier, it’s the “current frontier,” as he prepares to enter the second phase of building at Harveston, a traditional neighborhood development he’s been working on with partner John Fetzer since 2012.
The second phase of Harveston, called The Lakes at Harveston, calls for 1,000 home sites on 350 acres bordering University Club. Those homes will be priced in the low $400,000 to mid $500,000 range. The first phase, the Preserve at Harveston, comprises 320 homes and is almost “completely sold out,” says Wampold.
Ultimately, Wampold imagines six phases for the TND, including mixed-use and commercial components, to be developed over the next eight years. He’s been working on developing this portion of south Baton Rouge for more than 15 years at this point, adding tracts of land and building up the first phase of the development.
In May, Wampold purchased a 276-acre tract south of Bluebonnet that was an essential piece for future phases at Harveston. In September, he bought another 14 acres that connected the tract to Nicholson Drive.
It was predicted when L’Auberge Casino and Hotel Baton Rouge opened in 2012, that commercial development surrounding the casino would follow. In fact, then Planning Commission Director Troy Bunch said the area was “unlikely to remain rural.” But there are still 2 miles of space between the casino and any commercial properties. The closest gas station is on Burbank Drive, down Gardere Lane.
“The area seems to still be the biggest pocket, or the biggest conglomerate of land, compared to other new neighborhoods, where there is room for thousands of new houses,” says Scott Gaspard, a senior partner with RE/Max First. On top of the room for future growth, Gaspard says home sales there consistently perform well.
Part of the delay in getting commercial projects going was the need for more houses to pull in commercial developers, and Wampold feels the area has now reached that threshold.
“We are heavily engaged in the development process right now, with home sites and retail developments such as grocery stores,” says Wampold, who is working with Ty Gose of NAI/Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate to recruit commercial projects for the area.
“Highway 30-Nicholson will be a future major corridor, connecting Interstate 10 at Gonzales and downtown Baton Rouge, going through Geismar, Gonzales, St. Gabriel and even LSU. We consider this to be a hub.”
On the other side of University Club, across Nicholson, work is progressing on Atwater, Southern Lifestyle Development President Prescott Bailey’s planned 250-acre subdivision that will front River Road and back up to Nicholson Drive.
Alvarez Homes contracted with Bailey in 2018 to acquire more than 500 lots in what will eventually be a single-family subdivision. The development, which is now split into two parts, will comprise smaller, cottage and alley-loaded homes of between 1,700 and 2,400 square feet on the Alvarez side, and custom homes ranging from 1,800 to 3,500 square feet on the opposite side, Bailey says.
Bailey says that, at this point, there’s not much news for the Atwater development, but that things are moving forward.
Adding into the momentum, in August of this year two more projects got the go-ahead from the parish planning commission to move forward.
The first of the two is Waters Edge at Lexington Estates, which will be a 45-acre single-family residential subdivision off of Lexington Lakes Avenue, which will further expand the Lexington development. Greg Flores Construction is expected to break ground in the next few months. The subdivision will have 177 lots and 11 common areas, with nearly four lots per acre.
Developer Charles “Windy” Gladney Jr. also applied for the first and second filings of Woodstock Park, a proposed 53-acre subdivision off Nicholson Drive near The University Club and the proposed Waters Edge.
The vacant property, owned by BREC, was deemed “obsolete” in a BREC study and was approved earlier this year to be sold for $3.6 million. The subdivision is set to have 213 residential lots—at four units per acre—and will feature five common areas, according to the Planning Department’s staff report.
University Club isn’t done expanding, either. Developer and managing member Sinclair Kouns says University Club is in the middle of its 11th filing. It had 59 lots in its first phase, about half of which are sold and under construction. Thirty-eight lots are under construction in the second phase of the filing, with Richard Price Contracting out of Denham Springs doing construction. There is a third phase planned, but it doesn’t yet have a construction start date.
“It’s been phenomenal, who would have ever thought that University Club would enjoy 800 rooftops,” Kouns says. The 21-year-old neighborhood would not have been able to continue to build as it has without city leaders’ push to improve infrastructure in that portion of the parish in the early aughts, he says. “It’s really been a nice ride to see us have a small influence on what’s really been good growth for Baton Rouge.”
When compared with the rest of the parish, home sales on the “last frontier” have been steadily increasing, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, even as the rest of the parish experienced ups and downs in new homes sold, says Brython Cox, GBRAR communications director.
The success of home sales and steady growth in this area has pushed out beyond its borders, Gaspard says. As interest in being near University Club and Harveston grows, more home buyers are looking to nearby “pocket” neighborhoods along the Burbank corridor, which are some of the hottest parts of town this year. Price is a factor there, too. Harveston, University Club and Lexington Estates are for buyers looking to spend between $300,000 and $1 million, but off of Staring Lane and Burbank are houses in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, sales of which Gaspard believes are benefitting from the growth as well.