Materra: A different twist on a TND

The site plan for the residential development section of the Materra mixed-use development. (Courtesy Woman’s Hospital)

Woman’s Hospital recently unveiled plans for a 100-acre mixed-use development that will be built on a tract of vacant land fronting Airline Highway that is owned by and adjacent to the hospital.

The development will be called Materra and will be developed by Woman’s partner in the deal, businessman and developer John Engquist, who was selected from among nearly a dozen developers that submitted proposals to the hospital.

Woman’s is investing some $20 million in developing the project with Engquist and hopes to begin selling single-family lots to builders sometime in 2019. Eventually, the project calls for the development of a commercial component as well.

Materra is the latest of more than half a dozen planned communities to be proposed and constructed around Baton Rouge in recent years. But it’s unique for a couple of key reasons.

Here’s a closer look.

How big will it be?

At 100 acres, Materra is about the same size as Rouzan, though it won’t be nearly as dense. It will have some 275 single-family houses, ranging in size from townhomes and small garden homes on lots just 20-feet wide to moderate-sized family homes on 50-foot lots and manor homes on 60-foot lots.

The residential community will also have a pool and clubhouse, walking trails and plenty of green spaces. In later phases, Materra will include some 13 acres of commercial restaurant and retail space, and a multifamily complex with an estimated 300 units.

What is the price point?

In keeping with the model of a true TND, Materra will offer housing options to satisfy a variety of price points. The smallest homes will be priced in the upper $200,000 range, while the most expensive homes will easily top $1 million, Engquist says. Both custom and spec homes will be built by a builder’s guild that will include the developer’s Engquist-Level Homes and a handful of custom builders soon to be announced.

Why is Woman’s getting into real estate development?

When Woman’s acquired the 200-acre former Briarwood Golf Course site in 2001, it wasn’t sure what it wanted to do with it. In 2006, as it began looking to relocate its campus at 9000 Airline Highway, it created a master plan for the site that included a mixed-use development.

In other words, Materra has been on the drawing board, conceptually at least, for more than a decade. Now that Woman’s has developed its $350 million campus and a new $25 million Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion—and is in the midst of developing a birthing center and planning a new child development center—it’s time to add other components to its property.

Senior Vice President for Planning and Development Stan Shelton says it’s a way for the hospital to be good stewards of the land and make sure it gets a good neighbor. It’s also a way to generate income at a time when federal health care funding and insurance reimbursements are shrinking. By selling residential lots and eventually developing the commercial portion, Woman’s can generate a steady income stream to help offset inevitable cuts in Medicaid reimbursements.

Is Materra only open to Woman’s employees?

No. Upwards of 20% of Materra residents will be Woman’s employees, Shelton estimates, but the development will be open to everyone.

How is it different from other TNDs in town?

Materra is unique in a few key respects. For one thing, it’s the only community developed on the grounds of a medical complex. Also, it’s adjacent to the new BASIS charter school, which is under construction on a nine-acre parcel the hospital sold to the nationally renowned charter group in May 2017 and will open to students in grades K-4 this fall.

A lot of TNDs and similar communities aspire to have a top-notch school, easily accessible for kids on foot, in the midst of their development. Materera will have one by the time the first single-family home is completed.

Significantly, Materra also has one of the widest price ranges of any planned community in the market, and one day could represent the true TND ideal of a live-work-play community with a diverse mix of residents.

Why did Woman’s choose Engquist?

Engquist, CEO of the publicly traded heavy equipment company H&E, has an increasingly impressive track record as a residential developer, particularly with planned communities like TNDs. Among his current projects are Americana in Zachary, Rouzan in Southdowns, and 5401 North in North Carolina. The hospital selected him from among 11 competing developers because of his experience, Shelton says.

What does the word “Materra” mean?

Materra is a hybrid brand name created by combining the Latin words for mother, mater, and land, terra, and reflects the hospital’s vision for the community as a nurturing, engaging place.

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