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Residential developments now selling lifestyle

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST – Residential real estate developers say the trend for new subdivisions is moving toward lifestyle- type developments with home-buying choices made more on the way people want to live rather than finding or building a house they love.

Busy Biloxi real estate developer Mike Boudreaux says it`s a new trend for Biloxi but prominent in other places. He and partners who make up Gulf Coast Investment Developers are developing Savannah Estates and Condominiums on Back Bay near Interstate 10. There it`s all about being on the water and views of the water.

“With 70% of people in the United States living on coastlines, we could have more of this type of development here but the problem will be availability of land,” he said. “We’ve designed Savannah to allow a middle income person to live on the water and enjoy all the amenities. It`s a lifestyle that revolves around the water and water activities.”

Boudreaux says the 31 home sites and 145 condo units, all with access to the water, will create an active, affordable lifestyle in a safe environment for families and children. He expects to draw local people to the home lots and a mix of locals and people within a 100-mile radius to the condos. Savannah, unlike a gated community, will promote an active lifestyle. Boat launches, piers, walking trails, swimming pools, and a clubhouse with exercise facilities will be available to residents. Parking spaces will be deep enough to accommodate boats, wave runners and RVs.

Boudreaux is a Biloxi native and former banker who was involved in real estate in the New Orleans area for many years. Recognizing the growth in his hometown, he moved back to get into the development boom here.

Nearby on Back Bay, Destiny Plantation also has a water-theme lifestyle but with a slightly more genteel atmosphere. With 55% of the home lots sold, developer Phil Ward says Destiny Plantation has a Southern plantation feel and the general ambiance of a laid-back lifestyle.

This development also has the Coast`s only island community. An arched bridge connects the small island with its 27 home lots to the mainland where there are 34 lots. From the island, a 450-foot pier juts into Magnolia Bay. Throughout the development, cobblestone streets and nostalgic-style street lamps play up the elegant lifestyle. There is a clubhouse built as a replica of a Texas lighthouse dating to the 1700s.

“We have beautiful water views from all the lots,” Ward said “but all can not build piers because there`s a lot of marsh around the island and long piers would be unsightly.”

He said a study shows that part of their market will be people retired or nearing retirement who no longer want large homes. Because of that demographic, the minimum size of a home was reduced to 2,500 square feet.

“Home owners can build a very nice house but it doesn`t have to be 6,000 square feet,” he said. “We also will have professionals who will build large homes. I think we`ll have a nice mix. We have good covenants to protect the integrity of the development.”

A few homes have been built in Destiny Plantation and others are under construction. Ward says residents are encouraged to build in the Southern tradition. Architectural styles and landscaping themes must be approved by a review board and Ward says they won`t approve a contemporary style home.

Destiny Plantation and Savannah, near the Cedar Lake Road exit off I-10, are in Biloxi`s fastest growing area. Mayor A.J. Holloway referred to this part of the city as “the hottest geography on the Gulf Coast.”

There are new restaurants, schools, shops, medical and sports facilities, banks and millions of dollars worth of new streets, improved fire protection and upgraded water and sewer services.

In the quieter Pass Christian area, Ward says he and his partners will break ground within the next 90 days on Stablewood. He calls this development “a gentleman`s country place.”

“It will be very upscale,” he said. “We purchased 177 acres, part of which is currently a horse farm. Some lots are three-and-a-half to six acres and residents will be allowed to have horses.”

He says the Biloxi-Gulfport area has not had this lifestyle type of development and that in the past residential developers did not provide any amenities for homeowners.

“Developers all over the country would not think of not offering tennis courts and other lifestyle amenities,” he said. “There were a lot of what I call ‘me-too subdivisions’ here, the kind that just wave their arms and say come see me, come see me.”

Ward, a Biloxi native who was involved in real estate in Houston for 30 years, says home owners are looking for a lifestyle that will match what they want out of life and that will give them a sense of community. He hopes this trend will grow on the Gulf Coast.

A group of developers from the Coast and New Orleans have been trying since 1998 to break ground for Tradition, a large planned community on 4,600 acres in central Harrison County north of Interstate 10. Leonard McMullin, in the real estate business since 1985, recently came onboard as senior project manager and says developers hope to break ground soon.

“Tradition was conceived to be a model of the new type of development where the design would foster personal relationships among the people who live there,” he said. “This would be done by downplaying the role of automobiles.”

Tradition will feature community gathering places that include biking and walking trails and different styles of parks – some for active sports such as volleyball and softball and others for flowers and garden settings. There will be a park within walking distance of every house, McMullin says.

“There`s nothing magical about this,” he said. “It just facilitates getting people together and out of their houses. There will be family recreation areas and they won`t have to get in their cars to visit.”

According to McMullin, hiking and biking trails are now the number one amenity that people want when looking for a place to live. That replaces golf which used to be the number one thing.

McMullin notes that residents in this type of planned community tend to own their homes half again as long as homeowners in other places. This type of development encourages a sense of community, he says.

The first section of Tradition will include 650 homes with growth expected to reach 15,000 in 20 years.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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