The idyllic planned community born 10 years ago has been struggling ever since to find its way.
Its name, The Town of Lost Rabbit, meantime, earned a second meaning.
The upscale Madison County development has fought what has seemed at times to be a losing battle to fill out the 259-acre site on the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Fully developed, it would include about 600 residences, but fewer than 100 have been built or are under construction or planned, according to John Laws, secretary of the Lost Rabbit Homeowners Association.
Yet sunlight is breaking through the clouds that have hovered over the “town” almost since its inception.
Southern Lifestyle Development of Lafayette, La., is finalizing the purchase of 40 acres, including the undeveloped part of the town center, according to the firm’s chief operating officer, Kevin Blanchard.
A blanket settlement of a number of lawsuits in 2014 signaled the way for the development to move forward.
The Louisiana-based developer is buying the acreage from Allstate Insurance, which took possession of it as a result of the resolution of the suits.
Southern Lifestyle has a number of similar projects in its portfolio, including River Ranch in Lafayette, whose principal architect was Steven Oubre’, who has designed the Colonial Highlands traditional neighborhood planned for the former Colonial Country Club in Jackson. Oubre’ is not involved in Lost Rabbit, Blanchard said.
The national housing collapse is probably at the heart of all the problems and lawsuits, Laws said.
Jackson developer Terry Lovelace is putting infrastructure in place on 40 acres on the south side of Lost Rabbit to enable the creation of 80 lots, according to Blanchard. Calls to Lovelace for this article were not returned.
The settlement freed Lovelace to resume working on the development, according to Laws.
“He was probably the largest unpaid contractor in the development,” Laws said.
Thus far, 55 houses and eight of nine condominiums are occupied, 12 residences are under construction and 15 more are planned – making a total of 91, Laws said.
Blanchard said that, if successful, the two efforts would leave about 100 acres idle.
Southern Lifestyle will start marketing lots after infrastructure is put in place in the fall, he said.
Marketing will be a huge part of the effort, he said.
The developer met with Lost Rabbit residents last week “and got a lot of good feedback . . . from folks who invested in it through thick and thin.”
“With allies like that, there is no way we aren’t going to be successful,” Blanchard said.
Marketing the development is the next and crucial phase, he said.
And weekly events such as wine festivals and concerts should lift spirits and help get the word out on Lost Rabbit, which has begun to find its way out of the woods, Blanchard said.
County taxpayers committed $5.8 million “to help it get out of the logjam,” said Trey Baxter, president of the Board of Supervisors.
“Obviously, it’s going to increase tax revenue,” he said.
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