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Developers’ goal with mixed-use StoneBridge project? Community

According to its developers, the mixed-use development StoneBridge is the largest such project the City of Brandon has seen in nearly a half-century. And, Marcus Martin Builder and Heartland Development Company, LLC, held a grand opening befitting the project’s scale May 16.

The grand opening included home tours as well as free crawfish boil (3,000 pounds worth), hot air balloon rides, live music, space jumps, face painters, free T-shirts, door prizes, treats and more. Some 1,500 people turned out for the festivities.

In short, it was a community celebration, and that is what the developers say StoneBridge is all about — community. And they don’t just talk it — the developers have donated land for a new school and are planning other ways to boost the community.

Marc Martin of Brandon-based Marcus Martin Builder said, “We always appreciate the opportunity to give back to Brandon and Rankin County.”

Home sweet home

Indeed, in addition to Marcus Martin, in business since 1996, many of the principals behind StoneBridge have deep roots in the Brandon area, especially Heartland’s senior vice president Edwin Sallis II. Sallis grew up in Brandon, and the landscape architect on the project, Trent Rhodes of TRLA, is a boyhood friend.

“The fact that StoneBridge is being built in my hometown definitely makes it doubly rewarding for me,” Sallis said.

Sallis made it clear, however, that the StoneBridge team used their heads, not their hearts, when deciding to build the sprawling development. Sallis said they saw a need for such a development as Brandon so many years ago that he can no longer pinpoint a date.

As with all developments of this type and scale, the preliminary work took the most man hours. Sallis said design work began approximately three years ago

StoneBridge is situated on 403 acres just south of Mississippi 18 and adjacent to the new Brandon High School. Homeowners may select from 432 townhouses, 162 independent living units or 536 larger three- and four-bedroom homes. These residences span a variety of separate yet complimentary architectural styles.

The list of amenities will include a central clubhouse and pool, 16-court professional tennis center and an approximately 52-acre lake. Abundant “green spaces” will be incorporated and connected by a network of sidewalks and walking trails that often avoid the development’s roadways all in an effort to curb or hide vehicular traffic.

These sidewalks will also connect StoneBridge residents to more than 75 acres of commercial/retail space totaling approximately 500,000 square feet. This will include a storefront “lifestyle” center offering an assortment of retail establishments and restaurants. At press time, Sallis said an anchor was being sought, but was not at liberty to discuss the ongoing negotiations. He did say that an anchor could be announced within a month.

That is not to say that StoneBridge does not have anything going on yet. On May 12, ground was broken for the StoneBridge Elementary School. The developers donated the 16-plus acres for the school out of community-mindedness. Sallis said a project as large as StoneBridge would put an undue burden on the local school system, and said donating the land “was just the right thing to do.”

The 78,000-square-foot school is slated to open in the fall of 2009, and will encompass approximately 35 standard classrooms, a P.E. room, language facility and other specialized rooms housing more than 900 second- and third-graders.

The tennis facility will be made available to Brandon High School to host tournaments as well as other community involvement and usage.

And, obviously there are homes ready for viewing. In fact, Sallis said several sales were made at the grand opening. Marcus Martin is offering a unique shopping experience. Homebuyers are offered “semi-custom” homes — shoppers can choose a plan but them pick finishes to their taste. Sallis this allows the company to put buyers in a home in as quick as 45 days.

Homes will range from 1,850-2,200 square feet in the $180,000-$270,000 price range. Something for everyone — from first-time buyers to empty-nesters — will be offered.

Estimating total completion of StoneBridge is not an exact science, but Sallis said he sees 2010 as viable.

More to come

Heartland has other metro-area projects built or in the planning stages. Other developments include Provonce and Lennox, both in Brandon and both strictly residential. They also have Sunchase, a retail/commercial development, in Brandon and Childre Road, retail/hospitality, in Pearl.

StoneBridge represents Heartland’s first master-planned, mixed-use development, but two others are planned. Blue Sky in Brandon and Florence in Florence are in the works. Blue Sky will offer residential, retail/commercial, while Florence will offer multi-family, retail/commercial.

Both of those projects are in the future and are “raw dirt,” according to Sallis. He said plans call for Blue Sky to be built next, with work starting perhaps two to three years from now, followed by Florence.

Sallis, who worked at Parkway Properties Inc. in Jackson for eight years, serving as vice president and managing the back office operations and data management before forming Heartland with partner Ben Turnage. said Heartland has enough on its plate for the near future.

“We’ll be plenty busy with StoneBridge,” Sallis said with a chuckle.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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