Two years into planning for a 19-acre, medium-density residential development in the heart of St. Francisville, the project is still without a buyer and the owner of the property—the West Feliciana Parish School Board—is now dropping its asking price by more than 35%.
Originally, the property, known as the Pecan Grove tract, was listed for $1.4 million. But following a rezoning from RS-1 to RS-2, allowing for medium- instead of low-density development, the property was reappraised and the price lowered to $895,000.
“The price was adjusted to be more in line with area comps,” says Mike Gennaro of Derbes Falgout Commercial Real Estate, which is listing the property. “Several developers have been interested in the plot and they were interested at the right price so now we’d like to put our best foot forward and market to buyers at the right price.”
Gennaro says the rezoning was unrelated to the price adjustment.
While it remains to be seen whether the price reduction will attract a developer, a more relevant question is whether that developer will follow the ambitious plans for the tract outlined in a master plan commissioned by the St. Francisville Area Foundation with some $90,000 in funds granted from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Those plans—a concept drawing done by the design firm Urban Design Associates in late 2017—envision a 50-lot walkable planned community with 16 cottages, 18 garden lots and 16 village lots.
But there is no covenant required by the school board, city or parish that the land be developed according to the guidelines outlined in the foundation’s plans. The only requirement is that the property be a medium-density development.
“The school board is not going to turn away any buyer,” Gennaro says. “The school board will leave it up to (the) city council and planning and zoning to determine whether the developer’s site plan is suitable or not. They’re not going to be heavy-handed in any way.”
The whole idea behind the school board’s decision to sell and redevelop the property was to create more badly needed housing within a price range affordable to the young families and school teachers that populate the school system.
Since planning for Pecan Grove began, however, two additional medium-density developments have sprung up in the immediate vicinity, increasing competition and a certain degree of frustration at the St. Francisville Area Foundation.
“We’re disappointed,” says Lauren Field. “We started this process in 2017 and we’re two years into it and at this point we’re kind of still at square one.”