An explosion of traditional neighborhood developments is about to go off as the brain trust behind River Ranch and Sugar Mill Pond make the model affordable for the rest of us.
By Walter Pierce
The TND is going middle class. Long associated with high-end spreads like River Ranch where a modest home will set you back half a million, the traditional neighborhood development concept is about to be applied to a price range we working stiffs can afford.
Developer Robert Daigle and architect Steve Oubre, the business and creative minds behind River Ranch and Sugar Mill Pond, are set to embark on a new round of projects that promise to bring thousands of affordable homes intermingled with retail shops/commercial businesses in the TND mold to far-flung ends of metro Lafayette — two developments in Youngsville and a third in north Lafayette on Pont des Mouton Road. The developments are expected to feature homes within the $150,000-$200,000 price range and will share the New Urban/Smart Growth hallmarks long championed by the forward-thinking Oubre and embraced by business-savvy Daigle: mixed-use zoning that welcomes residential and retail spaces shoulder to shoulder, lots of sidewalks for pedestrians, common green spaces, ponds, bandstands and, in at least one of the developments, a community garden. How cool is that?
In late March Van Eaton & Romero’s Bill Bacqué confirmed during a meeting of the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation what had been a juicy rumor in north Lafayette for weeks: Daigle had acquired the Couret property on Pont des Mouton — gorgeous, leafy, rolling acres abutting the recently shuttered Acadian Hills Country Club to its south — and will build an as-yet unnamed TND featuring about 500 homes.
The property already has some streets and other infrastructure, relics of a previous development called Couret Place that fell through several years ago. Oubre says that portion will be developed first, although the time line for the project remains unclear. Roughly 60,000 square feet of retail space will be included in the Couret development.
“Needless to say I’m very excited and look forward to this being the first of many other developments that will give people a good location — Upper Lafayette being a good choice among many good choices in Lafayette Parish,” says Lafayette attorney Jan Swift, executive director of the Upper Lafayette EDF.
To the south in Youngsville, the nation’s fastest growing community is about to really turn on the jets.
Last November voters there approved a 1-cent sales tax to fund the construction of an ambitious sports complex — multiple playing fields, basketball and tennis courts, a fitness center/gymnasium — on Chemin Metairie Parkway that will begin supplanting a cane field this year. Rising on either side of it, and connected to each other via the sports facility, will be a pair of Daigle/Oubre TNDs.
One of the developments will be built in coordination with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and will include an adjacent 150-acre industrial/commercial park, underscoring the walk-to-work concept at the heart of the Smart Growth model. This development is early in the planning stages — no sketches or renderings yet — although commercial tenants are already expressing an interest, says Oubre, who likened the development to The Woodlands in metro Houston.
Rapid residential growth was long a problem for Youngsville, which has no residential property tax and strained to meet the infrastructure needs of its growing population. But Mayor Wilson Viator says commercial growth and its associated sales-tax surge have made Youngsville well-positioned for what’s coming. “We pretty well have put ourself in the position to handle all this,” he says. “We just recently doubled our water capacity and also just tripled the capacity of our waste water facility, so we should be in excellent shape to handle this growth for several years to come.”
The other development is more fully realized. It even has a name — Fairfax Farm — and, being further along, is leading the pack in ambitiousness. Foremost, Daigle and company want the pull the Lafayette Parish School System into the project by donating acreage in Fairfax Farm so the LPSS can expand adjacent Green T. Lindon Elementary into the development. The TND, after all, will be brimming with school-age children.
“We’re so excited,” Oubre says. “To me that is the hallmark of that project.”
In addition to about 25,000 square feet of retail and 1,000 homes, 10 acres in Fairfax Farm are being devoted to community agriculture. “It’s a concept that has been used in other places in the country,” Oubre adds. “[It would be] along the lines of a community garden that the neighborhood manages as an association-owned property and creates a product that they can use as a member of the association, but they can also sell and make available to the community at large.”
Oubre says the three developments — two TNDs and the sports complex uniting them — will be the total package in terms of sustainable living: “This affordable concept for a TND with an educational component, walkable, the farm, the athletic piece, it’s going to be pretty substantial.”