BY SARA PAGONES, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE
More than six years after work began on Tamanend, a huge mixed-use development in central St. Tammany Parish, residential construction is set to begin on the first 400 of what will eventually be 1,348 homes, according to Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co.
It’s been a long time coming. Tamanend was first envisioned in 2008, when Weyerhaeuser donated more than 40 acres to the parish for an educational campus to serve as an anchor of sorts for a multi-use development that would include homes, offices and other commercial space.
A sign that stands at the entrance to the 848-acre site says, “Future Site of Residential Neighborhood” and includes the slogan “Heart of the Northshore.”
The claim has geographic merit: Tamanend’s location on Louisiana 434, less than two miles from Interstate 12, is smack dab in the middle of St. Tammany, where the homebuilding is one of the main drivers of the economy, according to Chris Masingill, CEO of St. Tammany Corp., the parish’s economic development agency.
Land along La. 434 has attracted other investment, including Northshore Medical Complex, the former Lacombe Heart Hospital that’s now a post acute care center, a Folgers warehouse and the Social Security office. Tamanend itself is right next door to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.
The woodlands of central St. Tammany have long been viewed as a logical place for growth in a parish that continues to see its population swell.
“It’s in a very important part of the parish, the center of the parish,” Masingill said, ticking off opportunities for commercial, industrial and residential development. “It’s where the growth is going.”
Tamanend will have a mixture of housing types, including apartments, townhomes, single-family homes and estate-type homes, according to Rose Fagler, economic development manager with Weyerhaeuser.
The development will also have office, retail and light industrial space. A site plan provided by the company shows two office parks, and a news release from the company says Tamanend has two sites spanning 80 acres that are certified for office and warehouse development by the state’s economic development agency.
Beau Box, whose company Beau Box Commercial Real Estate represents Weyerhaeuser in commercial real estate transactions for the development, said they are mainly talking to potential office users and some light industrial users.
Fagler said that most commercial opportunities “like to see a lot of rooftops,” before they commit, although she predicted that the college will help attract some development, including retail and fast food, more quickly.
“The technical college is a great asset,” Box said said. “It’s a good generator, a good hub for families. And it’s of course on I-12, out of the flood zone.”
Parish officials trumpeted the arrival of the college with a ceremonial groundbreaking in 2015, and the new Northshore Technical Community College campus opened in 2017. But another public asset, a new home for the St. Tammany Parish Emergency Operations Center, is on indefinite hold, according to Parish President Mike Cooper, who cited economic uncertainties.
Work on the development itself has been moving forward, Fagler said. The main entrance, a divided boulevard with a wide median and decorative lights, ends abruptly but a phalanx of bulldozers and other equipment were parked where the pavement ended on a rainy morning last week.
Three roundabouts are in place, as well as a sewerage plants, a water tower and utilities. Most recently, new landscaping has been put in place on the south entrance, Fagler said.
The first residential construction will be medium-density homes in the $230,000 to $260,000 price range, Fagler said. The company isn’t ready to announce the builder, but Fagler said new homes will be for sale by the end of the calendar year.
Masingill described St. Tammany’s housing market as extremely healthy, with homes commanding good prices. But there’s a need for quality affordable housing, which he described as $200,000 to $230,000 homes, he said, “so firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers are able to afford to live in St. Tammany Parish.”
He sees Tamanend as presenting an opportunity for that market.
Fagler said that the developer is going to make sure the builders present a mixture of home styles. “They will not be competing in the same style and price range,” she said, adding that there might be single-family rental property as well.
When Weyerhaeuser, the largest landowner in Louisiana, merged with Plum Creek Timber Co. in 2016, Fagler said that the resulting company took a look at all the properties in the shared portfolio had to see which should move forward with the best chance to be successful.
“This was one of the best in our portfolio,” she said.