Building Traditions And Trends
● By Aimee Cormier
By Kari Walker / Submitted Photos
The concept of Traditional Neighborhood Developments, TNDs, is all too familiar with residents of Acadiana—the village of River Ranch was the first of its kind in Louisiana and the concept has since spread to other markets in South Louisiana like Lake Charles, Sulpher, Gonzales, New Iberia and now reaching to North Louisiana in Monroe.
The TND style of living appeals to consumers because of its firm foundation in building a community rather than a subdivision. TNDs like River Ranch and Teche Ridge boast homes of all sizes—riverfront mansions are a mere walk from patio-style houses and upscale apartment units. If housing were the only priority of TNDs, developers like Southern Lifestyle Development, SLD, the visionaries of River Ranch and Teche Ridge would have finished their job years ago. But, the idea of creating a “town within a town” means thoughtful planning to give TND residents options like shopping, dining and entertainment all within a few miles of their front door.
Southern Lifestyle Development’s mission is, “to build communities that celebrate lifestyle by introducing components that elevate ones quality of life.” With the initial concept of the Village of River Ranch and then Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville, this has been defined by giving residents a public gathering place to celebrate with events like Rhythms on the River or Sugar Jam and also access to health and wellness with City Club’s fitness center and expansive walking and jogging paths.
“The idea has always been to create what worked in the past,” says Karen Daigle, spokesperson for SLD. In urban areas, people gravitated to downtown areas for living because of proximity to services like markets, schools, businesses and churches. Mixed-use developments like TNDs create what is missing from subdivision developments: community. “You’ll notice there are no gates—we want everyone to enjoy what our communities have to offer,” Daigle adds. TNDs do not seek to offer a sense of exclusivity and mystery, but rather want others to see what’s to offer—and maybe consider calling a TND community “home.”
Teche Ridge is another TND development that is creating a wide variety of thoughtfully designed residential and commercial properties in an environmentally responsible way. They believe this is a smart way to grow and a smart way to live. The spirit of the small towns and villages along Louisiana’s rivers and bayous inspires the communities they are creating. Their first home is currently being designed by designer and architect Edson Davis. It will be built by Frank Nixon and the interior design will be done by his wife Kathy Nixon, both of Iberia Parish.
“Traditional neighborhood developments allow people of all ages to live in a very dynamic community,” explains Lorna Bourg President and CEO of the Teche Ridge LLC. “Aside from all of the amenities and being able to walk from your home to business meetings or to visit neighbors, you have the added benefit of being able to stay in the same community. You can build a larger home when you have children and as you get older you can select a smaller home just a block away.”
Young professionals and families desire to live in established areas with amenities similar to what urban downtown areas offer, hence why many are choosing developments designed in the TND style. As Acadiana grows, historical downtown areas tap out on housing suitable for this group and slowly the shift from subdivisions without amenities is loosing appeal. People want to be on foot and enjoying life.
“It’s surprising how many homeowners want less yard,” Daigle says. Owners of homes in TNDs are consciously sacrificing large lots for location and convenience realizing less grass to mow on a Saturday means more time spent riding bikes with their children or chatting with neighbors at the park.
SLD now is building beyond the TND concept to meet buyers’ needs with neighborhoods boasting amenities like clubhouses, neighborhood pools and playgrounds. The idea continues creating a space to live a life driven by community. Other builders and developers are taking to this trend to meet the market’s demands with new construction homes remaining more popular than the purchase of older homes for renovation. As consumers continue expanding to the reaches of what was once field lands, there is space to create new and beautiful homes revolving around what the buyer wants.
And what buyers want is variety – variety that isn’t available in conventional subdivisions. Something that Teche Ridge aims to bring to the dynamic masses that their TNDs are designed to accommodate. The master plan of Teche Ridge showcases how the TND caters to each phase of life and includes amenities that ensure residents aren’t growing out of the neighborhood they love.
“The TND allows for much more building variety than conventional subdivisions,” Bourg explains. “You can have a beautifully designed cottage next to a very large three or four bedroom home. Well developed and designed TNDs have a lot of parks and they control traffic so that it’s more helpful to pedestrians and people who are older or have trouble walking across broad and fast moving traffic. The landscaping and the designs allow people to not have to move from the subdivision where lived and raised their children. It brings a lot of people together from different ages and different life experiences.”
Homeowners continue to want open floor plans—as much as people want a feel of community in their neighborhood, they seek the same feel with kitchens that open into living rooms for gathering. Within the past 5 years, more builders are adding components like outdoor kitchens and fireplaces because it’s what the customer is looking for—even speculative starter homes are built with some of these amenities to sweeten the deal.
Speaking of deals, a buyer on a budget doesn’t have to settle for basic options—a few words of advice from some builders can yield a home with major appeal. “Customers on a budget still want it to look like the more expensive homes—we achieve this look with double or triple crown moldings, maybe pop up ceilings in the living, dining or master bedroom,” says Pam Weaver of W Homes, a local builder. “An easy way to give a small space a grand feel is to add specialty ceilings to a room—this could be a simple tray ceiling to add a little bit of character or a cathedral ceiling to add height to the room and make that room feel larger,” adds Manuel Builders. No matter the square footage, look up if you want to achieve champagne taste on a beer budget.
Paying attention to details like bathroom and kitchen tile accents and little niches in walls are all easy add ons buyers can discuss with builders to give their home some modern touches found in upscale homes.
Function has not taken complete precedent over form, but Weaver sees customers looking for less stress in their homes. “I find customers are looking for easier living—less yard work, less cleaning, more streamlined areas,” Weaver says. Once, she took outdoor space and created an easy to care for courtyard area to free up her buyer’s time and also added water features to promote tranquility.
Storage is another hot item for buyers looking at homes—this means more than an ample-sized walk in closet. “Homeowners are making sure each room has a purpose—most homeowners will eliminate areas that don’t get used often like formal dining rooms and reading nooks to make room for extra storage or usable space,” says Manuel Builders. The storage of a homeowner’s possessions is of no value unless the homeowner can access it with ease. “Some great storage ideas are deep pull out drawers, custom racks in cabinets that can pull out—also, drawers for spices, pots, dishes, even canned goods and paper goods are useful,” are ideas W Homes gives its customers for kitchen storage.
Builders agree that when buyers are choosing a smaller home, quality materials still needs to be a priority. “Customers are looking for better quality, durable, lifelong products—we sell granite in almost every home now, whereas Formica and ceramic tile counter tops were a staple 15 years ago. Most people also opt for brick, stucco and Hardie plank on the exterior as opposed to vinyl,” says Manuel Builders.
For anyone in the market to buy or renovate a home, the Acadian Home Builders Association provides ideas for consumers through both its Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show and the Parade of Homes. On March 5 and 6, consumers can see the latest in building materials, floor treatments, appliances and decorating trends. Before visiting a home show, take some time to scout the Internet for inspiration. Even those not actively looking for a new home or renovation can find ideas and stash them away for later creating a better visual of their style. “Now that websites like Pinterest and Houzz are available, homeowners are able to see what products and technologies exist before they even think about building,” says Manuel Builders.
While adding current trends is exciting for buyers, it’s equally important to think about longevity—add upgrades in a home because you love them versus getting your money back for resale. Find a middle point you can live with while also bringing joy. And, don’t forget to take a walk outside and create community with your neighbor.