Teche Ridge Turns Dirt!
6/10/2013 12:00:00 AM

Teche Ridge is Iberia Parish's first traditional neighborhood design. It was born from the Rural Recovery Response by Southern Mutual Help Association Inc., after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The RRR was a "commitment to help those communities, especially along coastal Louisiana, recover from the hurricanes, said SMHA President and CEO Lorna Bourg of New Iberia.

"Rebuilding Louisiana better than before" became SMHA's motto, she said.

Bourg wanted Teche Ridge to be similar to River Ranch in Lafayette, but wanted people with a diversity of incomes to be able to live there, instead of just having high-end residential homes.

Lorna Bourg (President and CEO of Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc.) presents award to Steve Oubre (Architects Southwest) at the June 10, 2013 "Turning of Dirt" event!

SMHA hired Steve Oubre with Architects Southwest, who designed River Ranch in Lafayette, to design Teche Ridge, and in 2006, SMHA acquired 100 acres along Old Jeanerette and Emile Verret roads.

"We began a process of listening to citizens. Since it was right after the hurricanes, it started off with people thinking we're moving in all the displaced folks and putting them in FEMA trailers, which couldn't be further from the truth, or that we were going to build some low-income housing project, which couldn't be further from the truth," Bourg said.

She said they had listening and education sessions -- over 100 community meetings.

But Bourg said they encountered legal barriers when they tried to begin development. In Iberia Parish, it was illegal to build a smart-growth traditional neighborhood. The ordinance that existed required uniform road size through the neighborhood, plus the houses and the lots were usually the same square footage, Bourg said.

In a TND, the inner roads are narrower to make it safer for pedestrians, there are no cul-de-sacs and there are variations in lot and house sizes.

"There might be a beautifully designed home with 4.5 bedrooms next to a cottage that is much, much smaller. It's all about the architectural design. There is beautiful landscaping and curb appeal on each house. It's built around families, communication, health and trying to reduce the prominence of cars," Bourg said.

So in 2007, SMHA worked with the Parish Council to create another ordinance that would allow for a traditional neighborhood development. Now, a builder can select the old subdivision code or the TND code, but cannot mix and match. Then, when SMHA was ready to close on financing with Chase Bank, it discovered pre-sales were not allowed. A pre-sale allows a person to put down a deposit for a lot or a house and if the developer builds it the way upon which it was agreed and it is approved by the Iberia Parish Council, then the person will buy the lot or house.

It's basically a way of reserving a lot or home.

"You can't get financing without showing there's a market. Pre-sales is a way to show the market is there ... The ordinance didn't allow for pre-sales so a developer had to lay out the money, finish the work, have the parish inspect it and then enter into pre-sales or sales, but that doesn't work when you're trying to put in a master community for millions of dollars. It's why you see subdivisions with cul-de-sacs, ditches, without sidewalks -- the developers had to put in all the money and then sell the properties," Bourg explained.

So in 2009, SMHA worked with the district attorney to create a new ordinance that would allow for pre-sales.

Then there was a bank meltdown, which contributed to the financing problem. But SMHA finally closed on financing on May 23 with Local Initiative Support Corporation, NeighborWorks Capital and Ford Foundation providing the financing.

Teche Ridge will take 15 years to build, have 600 residential homes and 200,000 square-feet of commercial business space. Bourg said when it is built, the community should see an economic effect of half a billion dollars. "That kind of commerce, that kind of building over 15 years will generate a huge economic impact ... It's a new way of living. You have community events, art events. You could have community parties or concerts, so you build a community and neighborhood again like it used to be ... New Iberia is rich, rich, rich in performing arts, fine arts, culinary arts. There is so much here to celebrate. That is the basis of prosperity in most communities," she said.

Van Eaten & Romero real estate is handling the marketing and sales of Teche Ridge. Allen Duhe said there will be lot and lot-house packages, which are featured on the website. Lots are ranging from $48,027 to $94,932, depending on the size and location. Lot-house packages range from $221,523 for a 1,421 square-feet house to $501,647 for a 3,079 square-feet house. Townhouses will be sold as packages.

"Teche Ridge ... is building Louisiana better than before. It's just a terribly exciting piece of work for us," Bourg said.

All Photos Copyright 2013 SMHA/Zoom Photo Studio
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