GONZALES — Developers looking to cash in on a housing crunch created in the wake of industrial expansions in the chemical corridor have been eyeing Gonzales, with new subdivisions on the way for this Ascension Parish east bank city of about 9,800 residents.
Add new, smaller subdivisions in the works to the recent announcement of the Conway Plantation development on La. 44 bringing 203 acres of single-family homes, and it appears to be quite an uptick in housing.
Activity is also about to begin anew in the Edenborne Development, also on La. 44.
Home to the River Parishes Community College, the close-to-open Emerson manufacturing facility and an Alliance Safety Council training center, the development will soon begin adding its residential components, Tommy Spinoza, with JTS, the managing partner for Edenborne, said Friday.
“The master plan is being developed for 100 acres of single-family residences, to be developed in phases over time,” Spinoza said.
He said he expects construction on the homes to begin this year.
Locals believe the market is ready for the coming surge of new homes.
“I think it’s (driven by) the demand by the chemical workers in general,” said Frank Cagnolatti, chairman of the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission, referring to industrial expansion along the Mississippi River.
“Hotel rooms are booked; rental property is all booked,” he said.
For developers, Cagnolatti said, that means “ ‘We better put something down.’ ”
“I think we’re really starting to see the permanent employment” brought by recent plant expansions, said Mike Eades, president of the Ascension Economic Development Corp.
Ascension and St. James parishes have seen a boom in industrial projects, including more than $350 million in expansions at BASF and a $1.1 billion construction project at Methanex, both in Geismar in Ascension Parish; a $2.1 billion expansion at CF Industries in Donaldsonville, in Ascension Parish; and a $1.85 billion Yuhuang Chemical methanol complex in St. James Parish.
Ginger Maulden, vice chairwoman of the Ascension Council of Realtors and secretary-treasurer for the Greater Baton Rouge Board of Realtors, says that, according to Multiple Listing Service information, the inventory of new homes — including completed homes, proposed construction and those under construction — in Gonzales for April was a little over two months’ worth.
“Typically, there’s a six-month supply of inventory” in a healthy market, said Maulden, who characterizes the housing market in Gonzales and Ascension Parish as a “seller’s market.”
She notes that a strong draw for homebuyers with young children continues to be the Ascension Parish school district, one of the top-rated districts in the state.
And, Cagnolatti said, new stability on the City Council may account for some of the home-building activity in Gonzales.
“I need to attribute some of it to the change in the business climate,” Cagnolatti said, referring to the City Council, which has two new members, Neal Bourque and Harold Stewart, who this year replaced former council members Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel. Last year, Lacombe resigned and Vessel was recalled from office.
While they served on the council, it was embroiled in controversy, much of it over zoning issues.
One of the new subdivisions in the works, Meadow Crossing, will be situated on approximately 29 acres between West Worthey Road and South Darla Avenue.
The developer, McCoy Property Holdings, of Denham Springs, came before the Gonzales Planning and Zoning Commission in April for preliminary plat approval on its third filing of lots in the development.
“The entire development, once built out, is anticipated to have just over 140 lots,” said Samantha Montoya, with the Montoya Design Group, of Baton Rouge, the civil engineering firm for the development.
Another subdivision, not far from Meadow Crossing, is being created by longtime local developer Sonny Lamendola.
Lamendola is putting in the infrastructure — drainage, water, electricity, roadwork — on 66 lots in the new Gonzales Trace subdivision, at Orice Roth Road and South Darla, and, when that work is complete in about six weeks, he plans to sell the development to Level Homes, of Baton Rouge, keeping one odd-shaped lot for himself.
“The majority of people moving into Ascension Parish are moving out of Baton Rouge,” Lamdendola said — mostly for the schools but also for economic reasons.
“You can buy a home about 20 percent cheaper than in Baton Rouge,” he said. “A good home sells right now in the neighborhood of $180,000 (for) a three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot home.”
Last year, Level Homes bought 57 lots in another of Lamendola’s developments in Gonzales, the Grand View subdivision on Cornerview Road.
There, the company is building and selling homes in the 1,456-square-foot to 2,000-square-foot range, at prices ranging from $182,900 to $249,900.
“Ascension has always been a very strong market for Level Homes,” said Todd Waguespack, one of the owners of the company.
Level Homes also owns the Shadows of Ascension subdivision in Prairieville.
“We just see a booming community,” Waguespack said of the area.
A third subdivision that would be in the same general area as Meadow Crossing and Gonzales Trace is in the business planning stage, said real estate broker Willie Robinson, who along with several business partners, is looking to develop the Roth Place subdivision on 10 acres by Gonzales Middle School on Orice Roth Road.
“Throughout the whole parish, the demand for housing is high; the demand is huge,” Robinson said.
Early indications of other subdivisions in the works include a request this month before the Planning and Zoning Commission for a rezoning from 8,000-square-foot lots to 6,000-square-foot lots by the Development and General Residential company for a proposed subdivision called Marion Court on South Purpera Avenue.
Cagnolatti and Terry Richey, planning and zoning commissioner, expect another building boom — in apartment construction— in the future.
Both the Conway Plantation and Edenborne developments will have apartments.
And the city has asked the Center for Planning Development, the nonprofit organization creating a new master land-use plan for Gonzales, to study the benefits of increasing the density or number of units per acre for apartments.
The city allows a density of 10 units per acre.
Studies have shown, Richey said, that higher apartment densities bring higher-quality complexes because “the more density they have, the more amenities (there are), because they have the money.”
With the density for apartment complexes likely to increase in the future for Gonzales, the “next wave will be apartments,” Cagnolatti said.
Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.