STEPHANIE RIEGELDarryl Dyess remembers well what Denham Springs was like back in 1982. He’d just gotten married and bought his first house there.
“It was just a little old hick town,” recalls the Livingston parish realtor. “People didn’t want to come here because it was just country living. There wasn’t even a Wal-Mart yet.”
What a difference a quarter of a century makes.
Today, Denham Springs is Baton Rouge’s biggest bedroom community and one of the main reasons that Livingston parish is the second-fastest growing parish in the state. In the past two-and-a-half decades, its population has nearly doubled, jumping 86 percent from nearly 59,000 to more than 109,000.
As in communities all over the state – and, indeed, all over the country – the growth has been fueled by several factors, most of them economic. Buyers get more bang for their bucks in outlying areas. They can live in bigger, newer houses for far less than they’d pay in the city; and, in many cases, take advantage of better public school systems.
Which is why many of the state’s “hottest” residential areas today are not what they would’ve been 25 years ago. Indeed, many of the high-demand areas today were in their infancy in the early 1980s, if they existed at all.
Hammond/Ponchatoula is considered by demographers to be the growth corridor in Louisiana. Photo: Megan Nadolski
Of course, defining the so-called hottest residential areas in the state is no small task. There’s no single source to which one can look; no repository of data collected in such a way that it measures the relative popularity of subdivisions, neighborhoods or areas of a given town. It is an inexact science and one that is certain to generate discussion, if not controversy.
That said, what we’ve attempted to do here is to look at trends over the past 25 years to see where people have moved in the greatest numbers, and to pinpoint neighborhoods or subdivisions within those parishes or regions that have generated the most buzz.
Not all the inclusions on this list are new neighborhoods. Some areas made the list because of their significance to a major urban area and the new standard they set there – the Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, for instance.
We’ve also included neighborhoods whose property values have continued to increase despite floods, crime, economic downturns and more floods – think Uptown New Orleans. Some areas remain perennially desirable and will as long as Louisiana exists.
We devised this list by starting first with the 10 fastest growing parishes in Louisiana over the past 25 years based on U.S. Census data. From there, we moved into the more nebulous realm of anecdotal information and informed opinion, talking to realtors within those fast-growing parishes about what particular areas in their parishes are – or have been for some time – selling well and selling fast.
We haven’t ranked the 25 hottest residential areas because we didn’t think there was any fair way to do so. We chose instead to list them alphabetically. This is not a perfect list, but it is a window into the places we in Louisiana have chosen consistently for the past quarter century – and in the greatest numbers – to call home.
Beau Chene, Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish. When you think back over the past 25 years and remember what areas were popular then, Beau Chene immediately comes to mind. The Mandeville subdivision was just eight years old in 1982, but was already capitalizing on the then-nascent St. Tammany building boom. Today, the 1,250-acre golf-course community is still hot, boasting nearly 1,200 single-family homes and more than 350 condos and townhouses. It has survived the economic ups and downs of the 1980s and ‘90s, retaining its status as one of the most desirable developments on the Northshore. Beau Chene homes today start in the $300,000 range, top $1 million on the high end and don’t stay on the market long – even at those prices. “Homes typically sell very quickly in Beau Chene, even though it’s been built out for years,” says Sandy Sandusky, managing broker for Prudential Gardner Realtors.
Belle Terre, St. John the Baptist Parish. Compared to parishes like St. Tammany, Livingston and Ascension, the River Parishes just west of New Orleans have experienced only modest growth in the past 25 years. Still, their population increases are significant and considerable, especially when compared to the rest of the state. Take St. John the Baptist parish – its population is up nearly 50 percent from where it was in the early 1980s, and Belle Terre can take much of the credit for it. This country-club community has experienced steady growth since it was developed in the late ‘70s. Today it’s home to thousands of residents in hundreds of homes in this multi-phase development.
Casino boats on the Bossier City riverfront have boosted the economy and new housing in the city since their construction. Photo: Shane Bevel
Bossier (North), Bossier Parish. While most of northern Louisiana has not grown as much in the past 25 years as parishes in the southern part of the state, Bossier parish is the exception, having experienced a 30 percent population increase since the early 1980s. Much of the growth in Bossier Parish has been spawned by legalized gambling on the Red River. A boardwalk and retail developments have sprung up around it, and the people have followed. Oak Alley, which is ironically built on a pecan grove, is one of the hottest subdivisions in the area at the moment, according to realtor Kate Butcher. Slightly less expensive and just up Airline Drive is Rosedown, another popular neighborhood. Both are less than a decade old and more new developments are expected to follow. Says Butcher: “All the gambling boats have attracted all sorts of new people to the northern part of the parish.”
Breaux Bridge, St. Martin Parish. In the past two decades, St. Martin parish has shown consistent growth, and today the parish has 25 percent more residents than it did in the early 1980s. Parish leaders can thank Breaux Bridge for much of that growth. The town has become an increasingly popular place to live because of its convenient location between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. Situated just 10 minutes from the former and some 40 minutes or so from the latter, Breaux Bridge is ideal for the ever-growing number of couples who work in separate cities. Breaux Bridge has also experienced recent growth spurts with the recovery of the petrochemical industry. “You’re starting to see a lot more development both residentially and commercially in that area,” says realtor Al Lopez.
Chateau Estates, Kenner, Jefferson Parish. Chateau Estates was already well established by 1982, but in the 25 years since then it has grown into Jefferson parish’s largest subdivision. Over the years, it has consistently held its value, offering homes in moderate- to high-end price points, and has attracted a steady stream of homebuyers. Where Kenner was once considered the outskirts of New Orleans, today’s more commuter-oriented population appreciates its proximity to both the Crescent City and Baton Rouge. What’s more, bigger and better restaurants and retail developments have made Kenner in general – and Chateau Estates in particular – an ever popular place to live.
Country Club of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish. In the early 1980s, the Country Club of Louisiana (CCL) was in the early stages of development; a set of plans for the most upscale golf course community Baton Rouge had ever seen. More than two decades later, CCL has set a new standard for luxury living in the state’s capital. More importantly, it has spawned dozens of other subdivisions off Highland and Perkins roads on the southeastern side of the city. “In terms of a milestone development CCL would be it for Baton Rouge,” says Kelley Pace at the Louisiana State University Real Estate Research Institute. “It triggered so many other upscale developments.”
Ascension Parish is the third-fastest growing parish in the state over the past 25 years. Photo: Brian Baiamonte
Denham Springs, Livingston Parish. For years Denham Springs was the butt of Baton Rouge jokes – it had that hick-town stigma that was hard to shake. Smart homebuyers didn’t let that bother them. Neither did developers, who have been building out this bedroom community little by little over the past 25 years. Today, dozens of subdivisions dot the area, including a new upscale golf-course community called Greystone, with homes that start in the $350,000 range. What’s more, since a recent court ruling cleared the way for a giant Bass Pro store to open in Denham, upscale retail development is planned for the area too. “Before Katrina, people from Baton Rouge were flocking to the area,” says realtor Darrel Dyess. “Now, people from the New Orleans area are too.”
English Turn, Algiers, Orleans Parish. What the CCL did for Baton Rouge, English Turn did for New Orleans: It raised the bar on country club living. With a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course and more than six acres of community parks, this lower Algiers development of 14 different communities ranks as New Orleans’ most exclusive planned development. Since it was built in the late 1980s, English Turn has continued to grow, despite the exodus from the parish in general, and home prices – which start in the $300s and go into the $1 million-plus range – have continued to increase.
Gonzales, Ascension Parish. While much of Baton Rouge’s growth has been to the north in Livingston parish, a significant portion of it has been to the west as well, which is why Ascension parish is the third-fastest growing parish in the state over the past 25 years. Like Livingston and St. Tammany, its population has nearly doubled – jumping 80 percent since the early 1980s – and much of that growth has been in the Ascension area. While no single subdivision dominates the Gonzales market, realtors say there are plenty of smaller ones from which to choose – and more new ones appearing all the time. Says realtor Sharon Hebert: “Anywhere developers can get their hands on land, they’re building subdivisions.”
Greenleaves, Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish. With nearly 1,000 homes and more than 100 condos and townhouses, Greenleaves easily qualifies as the second-largest development in the state’s fastest-growing parish. That defines it as a “hot” place to live. Over the past 25 years, one of the Northshore’s first master-planned developments has grown steadily, fueled first by employees from the oil-boom years of the early 1980s, and, more recently, from the continuous stream of south shore transplants. “Greenleaves got hung up in the oil and gas crash,” recalls Ivan Miestchovich, director of the Center for Economic and Real Estate Development at the University of New Orleans. “Then as things picked back up it started growing again and it’s done very well ever since.”
Hammond/Ponchatoula, Tangipahoa Parish. No single subdivision dominates Hammond/Ponchatoula, but this area is considered by demographers to be the hottest growth corridor in Louisiana. As Baton Rouge continues to expand east and New Orleanians migrate north and west, everything along I-12 is growing – with Hammond and Ponchatoula benefiting most from the surge. In the past 25 years, Tangipahoa parish has seen its population increase by more than one-third to more than 100,000, and experts don’t see that trend diminishing. “The growth and success of Southeastern University is one reason,” says Bobby Tallo president-elect of the Northshore Board of Realtors. “The school system has helped too.” Of all the many residential developments, Tallo says Jefferson Court is the largest. “It has a Hammond address, it’s in the Ponchatoula school system and it has a Springfield phone number,” he says. “It’s pretty unique in that respect.”
Haughton, Bossier Parish. The trendy new subdivisions off Airline Drive in Bossier may be one of the parish’s in-demand areas right now, but the older community of Haughton is another. As in the northern part of the parish, Haughton’s growth has come in part from the gambling industry. With more modestly priced homes in the $200,000 range on spacious, tree-lined streets, Haughton is a perennial favorite with the military families that work at nearby Barksdale Air Force Base. “People are always coming and going in the military,” explains Butcher. “So we sell a lot of houses there and it’s really expanded a lot in the past few years.”
Madisonville/Abita Springs, St. Tammany Parish. In 1982, the towns of Madisonville and Abita Springs together were home to fewer than 1,000 people. Today, that number has nearly tripled, which is not to say that it’s a teeming metropolis, but the area is growing fast – a trend experts expect to continue at a record pace. While no single subdivision dominates the area, dozens of smaller developments have appeared in the past 10 years, and new ones are cropping up seemingly weekly. “All the future growth in the parish is toward Madisonville, anything along that I-12 corridor,” says Sandy Sandusky, managing broker for Prudential Gardner Realty.
Oak Harbor, Slidell, St. Tammany Parish. While property values on the east side of St. Tammany parish have consistently run about 25 percent lower than those in the Mandeville/Covington area, there’s nothing low-rent about the Oak Harbor development. One of the biggest planned-use developments in the state, Oak Harbor took off in the 1990s, according to Kelley Pace at LSU. Built near Eden Isles, which was one of the first resort-style living communities when it was developed in the late 1960s, Oak Harbor kicked things up a notch, boasting a state-of-the-art golf course and a marina, as well as luxury homes that allow seafaring homeowners to conveniently moor their vessels to docks in their own back yards.
Old Metairie, Jefferson Parish. Like Uptown in Orleans parish, Old Metairie in Jefferson parish has experienced significant growth and appreciation over the past 25 years – not that other neighborhoods haven’t. However, Jefferson is now bigger than Orleans in terms of population and Old Metairie would rank as its most desirable neighborhood. All up and down the tree-lined streets off Metairie Road, post-War era homes are being torn down, replaced by mega mansions that eat up every available inch of lot space. The metro area’s most upscale retail outlets have replaced the folksy mom-and-pop shops that once dotted Metairie Road, making Old Metairie one of Louisiana’s hottest residential areas.
Ormond Estates, Destrehan, St. Charles Parish. This planned community was developed in the early 1970s on the grounds of the old Destrehan Plantation. Today it’s the largest subdivision in St. Charles parish. As with other developments in the River Parishes, much of the growth of Ormond Estates has come at the expense of Orleans and Jefferson parish. “We’ve got really good school systems in St. Charles parish,” says realtor Monique Gros. “And we’ve had consistent job growth, too. We’ve got just about every major chemical plant down here.”
Prairieville/Dutchtown, Ascension Parish. If you still think of Prairieville and Dutchtown as the last exit sign before you get to Baton Rouge from I-10 east, you’re not up on the latest residential real estate trends – these two Ascension parish communities just west of the state capital are blowing and growing. Like Gonzales a little further to the east, Prairieville and Dutchtown are increasingly dotted by new subdivisions, most of which have sprung up along Old Perkins Road or Highway 74 in the past 10 years. Property is less expensive there than in the city, though less so than in the recent past, and despite ever-constant traffic woes, both communities are still just a 20-minute commute or so to downtown Baton Rouge.
River Ranch Development, Lafayette. Modeled after the Woodlands in east Texas, River Ranch is one of the hottest multi-use subdivisions in the state – and other communities are following suit. Located in south Lafayette off Kaliste Saloom Road and Camelia Boulevard, the 250-acre River Ranch is home to schools and retail developments as well as apartments, condos and single-family homes in price points that range from $180 a square foot to $350 a square foot. So far, it has more than 1,000 residents – a number that continues to grow. “All reports are that by 2015 Lafayette will double in size,” says realtor Al Lopez. “There are a lot of exciting things going on.”
Southeast Shreveport, Caddo Parish. While Shreveport may not be growing per se, it still qualifies as Louisiana’s third-largest metro area, with more than 375,000 residents in the Shreveport-Bossier area combined. Within that context, it’s hard to overlook southeast Shreveport as a hot place to live. During the past decade, areas south of the city along Youree Drive, Ellerbe Road and Line Avenue have taken off both commercially and residentially. Two subdivisions in particular have set a new standard: Southern Trace – a golf club community of several hundred homes in the $300 range – and Long Lake. The area is expected to grow further when a new mixed-use community called Provenance, modeled after River Ranch in Lafayette, comes on line next year. Says Shreveport area realtor Kate Butcher: “It’s going to be a real big deal.”
St. Francisville, West Feliciana Parish. To hear folks in and around the Baton Rouge area talk, you’d think everybody was buying property in St. Francisville. It seems to come up in every other conversation and dominates talk in real estate circles. Indeed, West Feliciana parish rounds out the list of the top 10 fastest growing parishes, having increased its population by 25 percent in the past 25 years. As with other rural areas, much of St. Francisville’s popularity is due to the availability of land, the slower pace of life and the good public school system. The Felicianas also boast a gently rolling landscape – they don’t quite qualify as “hills” – that those from Baton Rouge, New Orleans and environs further south find irresistible.
Uptown New Orleans/Garden District, Orleans Parish. Since Katrina it’s been cheekily called the “Sliver on the River,” but Uptown’s new nickname underscores its enduring value as one of the city’s oldest and most beloved – to say nothing of highest and driest – neighborhoods. It has survived floods, economic downturns and the kind of crime waves that make national headlines. Nevertheless, Uptown remains consistently in demand. Over the past two decades, the value of homes has consistently increased in the most desirable parts of Uptown and prices per square foot can reach as high as $300. “It’s one of the areas that tends to sustain fairly high appreciation rates historically,” says Ivan Miestchovich at the University of New Orleans. “It’s one of the preferred neighborhoods because it’s on high ground.”
Warehouse District, New Orleans, Orleans Parish. By many accounts the 1984 World’s Fair was a colossal failure, but in terms of the redevelopment it spawned in New Orleans’ Warehouse District it was a shining success. Within five years of the fair’s closing, a handful of former warehouses were housing young professionals in stylishly redone condo complexes. Today, there are more than two-dozen such developments – and more in the works. With the trendy residents have come coffee shops, upscale restaurants, retail boutiques and a thriving arts scene, making the Warehouse District one of New Orleans’ most popular neighborhoods of the past two decades.
Watson, Livingston Parish. Like St. Tammany Parish, Livingston has nearly doubled its population since the early 1980s, and much of that growth has occurred in Watson – a once-sleepy town that is now one of Baton Rouge’s biggest bedroom communities. South Point and Live Oak are two of the biggest and most desirable subdivisions in the Watson area, with homes ranging from the $200,000 to $400,000 range. “They’re moving here because they feel like they can get more bang for their buck out here,” says realtor Darryl Dyess. A good public school system is also a significant factor behind the trend. “It’s one of the top rated school systems in the state. People are literally taking their kids out of private schools and moving them to the public system in Livingston.”
Willow Ridge, Luling, St. Charles Parish. While Ormond Estates may be the oldest and best-established subdivision in St. Charles parish, Willow Ridge is one of the newest and most in demand at the moment. Built in the late 1990s, Willow Ridge has hundreds of homes ranging from $300,000 to $500,000 and averaging $140 a square foot. Along with the growth of the subdivision has come increased retail and commercial development, which has made the area all the more desirable as a residential area. “This area really took off after they opened the ‘new’ Luling Bridge in the 1980s,” says realtor Monique Gros, who has lived in the parish her entire life. “I went to the school with the same people from Kindergarten through high school. Now, I go to my kids’ school and I don’t know half the people there.”
The streets of The Haven, an exclusive southeast Shreveport subdivision, are consistently clogged with contractors and construction personnel.
Photo: Shane Bevel Youngsville, Lafayette Parish. You may never have heard of Youngsville, especially if you’re not familiar with southwest Louisiana, but this small city southeast of Lafayette has the distinction of being the fastest growing city in Louisiana – not that it’s a particularly big city, mind you: Youngsville’s population just tops 4,100 – and that number is likely to keep increasing. People are moving to the city in droves, according to local realtors who say the abundant land and good public schools are fueling the growth. Currently, the developers of River Ranch in Lafayette are developing a similar planned community for Youngsville called Sugar Mill Pond and interest is high, according to realtor Al Lopez. “It’s the fastest growing area in this whole part of the state,” he says.
Population Growth 1982-2005
Parish 1980 2005 est. % growth
St. Tammany 110,869 220,297 98.7%
Livingston 58,806 109,206 85.7
Ascension 50,068 90,501 80.7
St. John 31,924 46,393 45
St. Charles 37,259 50,633 36
Tangipahoa 80,698 106,502 32
Lafayette 150,017 197,390 31.5
Bossier 80,721 105,541 31
St. Martin 40,214 50,434 25
W. Feliciana 12,186 15,199 25
Source: Caroline Leung, research analyst, Louisiana Tech Business College