The Next Big Small City
12/27/2017 08:14AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Gallery: Development in New Iberia [2 Images] Click any image to expand.
Development in New Iberia
By Patrice Doucet
On October 3, a business breakfast at New Iberia’s Ramada Inn drew a sold out crowd of 150 people who packed into the hotel’s conference room. It was said to be the largest gathering of realtors in New Iberia’s history, along with builders, developers, bankers and business leaders - all there for the first Iberia Parish Real Estate Development Symposium.
Hosted by David Groner, attorney and partner of Tuten Title & Escrow, a real estate closing company in New Iberia, the presentation was to promote real estate development in Iberia Parish, giving attendees an overview of progress made in the last year and an optimistic forecast for developments on the horizon.
“Iberia Parish had been stagnant for a while as we’ve watched neighboring cities progress,” says Groner. We thought it important to instill confidence in these stakeholders informing them that we’ve been getting ground work ready for a surge of future real estate development.”
The latest numbers indicate the long-battered housing market in Iberia Parish has been making its way back for the last few years. According to the Realtor Association of Acadiana’s multiple listing service, since bottoming out in 2010, home sales in Iberia Parish have increased 47.8 percent in the last six years, with an average annual increase of 8 percent. Homes valued at $150,000 or less sold in an average of 6.6 months. The total dollar volume of closed sales reported to the MLS through August 2017 was $36,563,332, which is up from the $33,557,189 reported for the same period in 2016.
Groner says there is a market for new construction in Iberia Parish reporting that The Port of Iberia is doing well with plans to add jobs. The airport added a terminal and soon there will be passenger service to Houston from New Iberia. There are noteworthy improvements in the quality of the public schools.Namely, in 2016-2017, Iberia Parish exhibited an all-time
high increase of 7.6 points in the district performance score of its elementary and middle schools. A new mayor and Iberia Parish president in 2016 have demonstrated continuous efforts to diversify the economy and push New Iberia and the Parish forward. “And, a recently-passed tax for a new police force will bring a new confidence in prospective home buyers concerned with safety on the streets, Groner adds.”
Home buyers also see added value in the lower sales tax of Iberia Parish, while builders are incentivized by lower permit fees. Jalyn Plaisance, Director of Operations at Van Alan Homes, points out that permit fees in Youngsville are roughly $4,000 more per house than in New Iberia. Combine that with a difference in sales tax and a $300,000 newly-constructed home in New Iberia would cost $8,500 more to build in Youngsville she says.
Head of Economic Development for New Iberia, Mike Tarantino says that he expects an interest in Iberia Parish to increase. “More and more, developers are learning about the low cost of land in Iberia Parish, the lower sales tax, and the ease of permitting. Residential and economic development go hand in hand and I feel the right economic development is coming. We’re attracting business to the parish and I’m very optimistic that as more jobs are created, people will come.”
Groner predicts that within the next two years major developments will come to Iberia Parish. Already the residential progress is typified in the development of new subdivisions and the sales progress of existing ones.
In Shadows Bend, Iberia Parish’s only gated community and former location of the Iberia Country Club, few lots remain.
Sugarland Estates is another higher-end development with homes averaging 1,700- 2,400 sq. ft. of living space. Representatives say it is about 85 percent complete since first selling lots in 2009.
Built on a ridge north of Bayou Teche the summer of 2016, Teche Ridge is the first and only traditional neighborhood development in Iberia Parish. Owner/developer Southern Mutual Help Association intended it to combine residential and commercial properties within the same subdivision much like River Ranch in Lafayette and Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville. In fact, it is designed by the same architect firm, Architects Southwest. It is a walkable and golf-cart community with outdoor events throughout the year, including farmers markets and outdoor concerts. With homes of various sizes, Teche Ridge is designed so residents can upsize or downsize without leaving their subdivision and children can remain in the same school district. Homes range from $279,000 to $455,000.
Hilda Curry, with Southern Mutual Help, says she is seeing a trend of New Iberia natives who are moving back to Iberia Parish to be closer to family. This was the case for Louise Champagne, originally from New Iberia, who moved to Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville after losing her husband because she liked the neighborhood concept, having everything she needed within walking distance. When she learned about Teche Ridge, she bought the first home in the development, January 2017, to be closer to her family.
Other developers who, like Groner, see the next trend of residential development happening between Youngsville and New Iberia include McClain Homes, with one of their newest ventures The Ridge, located on Fremin Road in Coteau. Breaking ground in early December, there are eight estate lots, each approximately one acre. The first spec home will be a 2,100 sq. ft. dwelling to include a separate 20’ x 30’ metal shop on a slab. Later, as other phases of The Ridge develop, there will be 151 standard-sized lots.
“There’s a new momentum with good things to come in New Iberia,” says Plaisance. “New Iberia is doing a good job of bringing in new businesses to Iberia Parish.”
“New Iberia is authentic, small town USA;” says Groner, “we’ve consistently been named ‘Best Main Street.’ We have the home of Tabasco, Shadows on the Teche, one of the most photographed homes in America, and Avery Island, to name a few of the attractions. Once people see what Iberia Parish has to offer, they will want to live here.”