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Reunion raises the bar for master-planned community

Mississippi’s largest master-planned community, an upscale residential development featuring a 400-acre lake, sand beach with water sports, 18-hole golf course, tennis and swim club, village playground, equestrian center, walking trails and a brand new elementary school, would not have been possible if Nissan North America had not located an automotive assembly plant in nearby Canton.

“It’s not that Nissan workers are buying property, but Nissan’s presence has made the resale market in metro Jackson much stronger,” said Will Randle, manager of Community Development Group (CDG) and a partner in the Reunion development.

CDG, a subsidiary of the H.C. Bailey Companies, is the managing developer of the project, in partnership with landowner David Nutt. CDG associates had previously developed Wellgate in Oxford, Browning Creek in Starkville, Cross Creek in Madison, and Waterstone, a gated community in northeast Jackson.

“We believed the desire for an upscale product was there for Reunion, but most of our buyers are already living in metro Jackson and had to sell their homes to move here,” said Randle. “Nissan’s effect on the resale market has made that possible, and drove the decision to develop this community.”

Since developers broke ground on the 2,100-acre property in the fall of 2002, about 412 of 484 lots at Reunion have been sold, while nearly 50 homes have been completed and 69 houses are under construction. About 45 families are living in the community, which opened its golf club on January 1, swim and tennis center August 7, and Madison Station Elementary School on August 11.

“Nationally, if you look at the most favored amenities in master-planned communities, an elementary school is in the top five,” said Randle. “Whatever you can do to cut down on mom’s commute time is a big plus.”

The new elementary school was built on donated land located at the southeast corner of the project, and replaces the school in downtown Madison that was recently shut down.

“The elaborate walking trail system is designed to connect to the neighborhoods so children can walk or ride bikes to school,” explained Randle. “Currently, there’s access to the school from Bozeman Road, which is being four-laned. A new parkway — Reunion Parkway — is under construction and will connect the southern part of Reunion from Highway 463 at the Whisper Lake/Annandale entrance, cross Bozeman Road and eventually lead to a new interchange at I-55.”

An 18-hole and 7,400-yard centerpiece

The centerpiece of Reunion, a 7,400-yard private golf course designed by Bob Cupp of Atlanta, features 128 bunkers, 410 strategically placed trees and a challenging landscaped water feature on hole 10.

“Reunion is right up there with the best high-end residential communities in Naples, Fla., with even more amenities,” said head golf pro Ben Chambers, who grew up in Orlando and recently managed a 36-hole golf course in a prestigious Gulfside community in Naples. “Reunion’s golf course is very challenging for all levels of play, with wide landing areas and very nicely contoured greens.”

About 32 builders are constructing homes in Reunion’s Belmont, Greenbrier, Greenview, Lakepointe, Thornberry, Waverly and Vinings neighborhoods.

Developers recently opened for sale two new lakefront neighborhoods, Northlake and Glenwood, with about 100 lots. The Northlake homes, from 2,200 to 3,800 square feet, feature quarter-acre lots, with prices beginning at $325,000. The Glenwood homes, measuring up to 4,000 square feet on half-acre lots, start at $400,000. About 35 of the two neighborhood’s 50 waterfront home sites, some with private piers, have been sold.

Estate lots in Langdon, with acre-size wooded lots requiring a 4,000-square-foot minimum home, were recently added to the market, said Randle.

“We set some really high architectural standards with the help of a consultant in a Memphis architecture firm,” he said. “We set high visual standards, and we literally have stacks of dos and don’ts photographs. The architectural review board, which is comprised of land planners, engineers and architects, meets twice a month to review each proposal, from site plan to tree removal to house placement, including the quality of materials that will be used for construction.”

Construction on the Reunion Farms Equestrian Center will begin next month and the initial 28-stall barn should be completed by late fall. Developers are seeking a facility manager; a veterinarian will be on call.

“We’re doing as much as possible to take care of horses so people can come out, saddle up and enjoy riding them,” said Randle. “We’ll start by offering basic services and move from there, depending on boarders’ request. You do not have to be a Reunion resident to utilize the facility, but residents will get priority.”

A taste of history

Reunion is being developed on a very historic site — the Annandale Plantation — which preceded the Civil War. John Johnstone and his two brothers, whose ancestors journeyed from the southern part of Scotland called the Barony of Johnstone in Annandale beginning circa 1214, moved to Mississippi in the 1820s from plantations in Bertie County, N.C., and eventually owned about 2,500 acres in Madison County, naming the area Annandale.

In 1848, Margaret Johnstone oversaw construction of the Chapel of the Cross, which cost $3,000 to build. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it remains one of America’s finest examples of 19th century Gothic Revival church architecture. The chapel retains an active congregation and adjoins the Reunion site to the north.

In 1928, a manor house was built to replace Annandale Mansion, a three-story Italian-style villa that burned in 1924. This manor house was renamed Reunion Hall and serves as a real estate sales center for the subdivision. It will eventually be converted to a community building for use by members of Reunion’s homeowner’s association.

“We also plan to develop some golf cottages on the property between Reunion Hall and Chapel of the Cross facilities, probably next year,” said Randle.

Reunion Realty Inc. has won eight regional awards — Best Special Promotion, Best Sales Center, Best Logo, Best Signage, Best Color Ad, Best Radio Ad, Best Direst Mail Piece and Best Brochure — and a National Association of Home Builders marketing award for Best Brochure.

“It was quite intimidating when we were up against companies like Del Webb and Trump for the national award and we were this small company from Mississippi in comparison,” said Reggie Sims, vice president of sales and marketing for Reunion Realty.

Sims, who recently worked in the Memphis market, and spent time researching similar neighborhoods in Atlanta and Dallas, said nothing “comes close to Reunion.”

“When you create a lifestyle like this, it’s hard to imagine a better place to live,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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