St. Tammany parish is a great place to live and its popularity has shown through the booming housing market. One negative aspect of the growth in the parish is the decline in the beautiful trees the area is known for. St. Tammany parish is the home of oaks, pines and cypress that give the area a canopied greens-cape. St. Tammany parish government has created the Tree Bank program and Adopt-A-Pond program to help with this problem by preserving the tree canopy, enhancing the water quality improvements, increasing flood mitigation and creating Eco-corridors along with wildlife habitat in St. Tammany parish.

“Water quality, flood prevention and preservation of our natural resources, are top priorities in St. Tammany, and we are able to address them all, in varying degrees, through these programs — the Adopt-A-Pond Program and the Tree Bank. This is another example of forward-thinking ideas put into practice, with wide-ranging results,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. “We also have the benefit of teaching our young people about their own environment and how all of these elements work hand-in-hand to give us our wonderful, natural surroundings, and what they can do in the future to protect our community.”

Funding for the program is fueled by the parish Tree Bank. The Tree Bank is financed by fees that the developers incur when removing trees off land in St. Tammany. Agency partners which include NOAA SeaGrant Program, the LSU AgCenter Youth Wetlands Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sunbelt Innovative Plastics, and are in the Adopt-A-Pond program, also help with monetary needs.

Along with the parish government, the St. Tammany School District has taken the initiative to help reach the goal of planting 30,000 new trees in the parish by year’s end. Boyet Junior High has already planted 325 trees at Meadowlake Pond in Slidell. The Adopt-A-Pond program will allow STEM students from St. Tammany high schools and junior high schools to plant trees along the banks of six ponds around St. Tammany. The school district plans to plant 2,300 trees this month alone.

“I’m excited that these community partnerships are allowing our students the opportunity to participate in hands-on science projects while also improving the environment of St. Tammany Parish,” said St. Tammany School System Superintendent Trey Folse. “These are real life lessons that students will be able to use far beyond the walls of their classrooms.”

Along with the 325 trees along the pond’s banks, 75 young Live Oaks have been planted along Oak Harbor Blvd. in Slidell. So far in 2019, over 400 trees of 13 species have been planted in the community.

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The New Year has started out with a great report on the future for the housing market this year. Still rebounding from the housing crisis, there was a slow moment in 2018 for the market. KB Home and Lennar have reported that shares are up this week. Investors and builders have been given an incentive after hearing the good news.
Last week, Lennar’s net income went above and beyond expectation and shares rose up 10%. This makes Lennar’s shares up more than 11% week to date. Their strategy has been affordability in home prices and with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage around 4.78%, affordable home pricing is the key.
KB Home reports their average selling price at the end of 2018 was down 5% from the previous end of 2017.
Lennar CEO Richard Beckwitt describes current sales as, “increased traffic, increased qualified traffic, increased folks willing to buy.”
KB Home CEO Jeffrey Mezger said, “The economy is expanding. Consumer confidence is high. Employment is strong, wages are growing, and household formation is increasing. Alongside these positive factors, the supply of existing homes remains low at 3.9 months nationally, and below that level in many of our markets, and single-family housing starts for 2018 will once again be well under the long-term annual average.”

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Friends Coastal Restaurant in Madisonville has been an abandoned building for close to two years.  Part of the problem for the seafood restaurant was the parking, noise and litter which hindered the nearby residents.  The community was not a suitable fit for the large restaurant.  Fortunately, the building along the Tchefuncte River was purchased by Greg Lala and Steven Guidry of Dixie RV SuperStores.

The proposal for the 27,0000-square-foot building to be renovated into a DixieRVSuperStoreRefurbishmulti-use complex was approved at Madisonville’s planning and zoning commission meeting on December 4, 2018. The new structure will include corporate office space and different types of eateries. Mayor Jean Pelloat is in agreement with Lala and Guidry.

“This type of mixed-use development with offices appears to be our best chance to get this building back into commerce,” Pelloat said.

The two business men plan to move their corporate headquarters to the building. The third floor will house the Dixie RV SuperStores CDixieRVSuperStoreorporate Headquarters while the remaining space will be for the eateries.  The second level will be an upscale restaurant and the lower level will be an open-air venue with casual eating served from Airstream concession trailers.

Unlike Friends, who hosted bands that play loud music late into the night, the new establishment will work under the town’s noise ordinance closing all food service no later than 10pm.  The first level open-air venue would stop serving food at 8pm and the music would not be amplified.

“This is not going to be a fly-by-night restaurateur,” said Lala, a St. Tammany Parish resident. “We don’t want to be Friends (restaurant). We want to be good neighbors.”

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After the fall of the economy in 2007, policymakers want to keep a healthy balance in today’s economy. The Federal Reserve does not want to repeat what some economist consider to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to a statement released by the Federal Reserve, the labor market is continuing to strengthen and the “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate.”

This week Fed policymakers agreed to keep the rates the same for November 2018.  The reason for this decision was based on the continued growth of the American economy.  The Federal Reserve wants to make sure the growth stays at a healthy rate, neither too fast nor too slow. The benchmark rate, the determining factor for the cost of borrowing on credit cards, mortgages and other loans, will stay between 2% to 2.25%

Markets have gone up this month and the Fed will more than likely raise rates at the final 2018 meeting. This also suggest the rates will raise several more times in 2019. Policymakers explain that this is a standard reaction to the strong economy.  This will give central bankers some cushion if a downturn were to occur.

Not all of the aspects of the economy are at full force. Business investments have risen very little and the investors are curious to see if the Fed officials will anticipate a lower growth in next year’s forecast.

The job market is strong. In October, employers added 250,000 jobs.  Wages have also gone up 3.1% year-over-year. While this is good news for Americans, officials fear that low unemployment and higher wages might speed up inflation which could force the central bank to raise rates aggressively.

The economy is on the mend but still has a way to go.  Many people are seeing a pay raise but there are those who still have yet to see one since the up rise in the economy.  St. Tammany Public Works employees are hoping for a pay raise for 2019.

This hope stems from a proposal given by Councilman Richard Tanner during a recent public hearing. Tanner proposed a 2 percent raise to employees that work in the Public Works payraisedepartment. It would cost the department approximately $273,000 for the 2 percent pay increase minus the department director. He sees the raise is justified because the department has its own funding source.  This source stems from a dedicated sales and property taxes. Many others agreed during the public hearing on the proposed 2019 operating and capital budgets that the employees should be given a raise.

“Public Works does a fabulous job and it would be my pleasure to vote for this,’’ said Councilman Jerry Binder.

Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President, feels that giving raises to one department and not the others “is incorrect and wrong.”

“Everybody in this parish works just as hard as Public Works,’’ Brister told the council.

Brister voiced there is very little wiggle room in the Parish Budget.  The proposed sale tax increase was a no go with voters last election. The two sales taxes that were denied would have brought in $22 million dollars annually. The current budget that Brister will be presenting totals to $99 million and will be adopted by December 31, 2018.

As a community starts to thrive and grow, more and more businesses and residents move into the area.  Along with new growth, comes new buildings and homes in the community. What about the existing buildings in the area that might have lost their tenants due to previous lack of growth?  An existing building is a perfect place for future business owners to begin a new business.  Adaptive reuse, the process of reusing an old site or building for a different or new business, is a great way to bring new life into an old building.

One community that is booming with growth along the Northshore in the New Orleans area is Mandeville. Barrett and Jill McGuire, of McGuire Real Estate Group, are using adaptive reuse at two sites in Mandeville. Rest Awhile is currently underway and is now a restaurant complex and Band’s Food Store’s old building is currently under review to become a restaurant in Old Mandeville.

Currently under way, is the Rest Awhile restaurant complex.  Originally the restawhileRest Awhile building was the Frapart Hotel in the 1800’s which later became a retreat house for those in need. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building was left abandoned and now the project is preserving the old building into a sit-down restaurant.  Two other buildings on the site include the Hadden Cottage, which plans to be a coffee and tapas bar and the Sophie B. Wright Cottage which plans to be a tavern.

The McGuire’s second project is close to Barrett’s heart. Band’s Food Store, inbandsfoodstore Old Mandeville, was built in the 1940’s and served Old Mandeville for decades.  As a young boy, McGuire remembers sweeping the parking lot of the grocery store, located at Lafitte and Monroe, to earn money to buy baseball cards.  The couple purchased the site for $275,000 and hope to turn the building into a restaurant.  McGuire says they are focusing on “a lunch counter concept at this point” and as for the name, “we haven’t gotten that far yet,” he said.

Adaptive reuse is not only a smart and green way to reuse current buildings, but is also a great way to preserve a community’s memories and history. As for the McGuire’s belief on conserving the old grocery store site, “It’s a great little place. It deserves to be put back into commerce,” he said.

 

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The economy and housing market are the strongest they have been in the past 10 years.  As the housing market and economy thrive so does the ever-changing communities throughout the country.  St. Tammany Economic Development District wants to evolve with the ever-changing market.

The St. Tammany Economic Development District is the forefront of St. Tammany’s economy. As stated on their site, the agency’s objective is to “seek to preserve and promote the quality of life by strengthening and supporting vibrant economies.” Businesses and Residence can follow the community’s economic development, successes and future opportunities found throughout St. Tammany via the agency.

St. Tammany is a great area to both live and work.  With the low cost of living and the strong business climate, the parish is on a growing trend and is home to industries that include advanced manufacturing, corporate headquarter offices, distribution and logistics, oil and gas, information technology, and healthcare and biosciences. The current population of 255,000 and civilian labor force of over 126,000 keeps this strong economy going.

Along with the growth comes competition with other attractive communities throughout the state and the country. Chris Masingill, who leads the St. Tammany Economic Development District, announced a plan to attract and keep businesses in St. Tammany Parish to the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, November 10, 2018, at a breakfast held at Tchefuncta Country Club. First on the agenda is to rebrand St. Tammany Economic Development sttammanycorpDistrict with a name change to “St. Tammany Corp.” and a new logo.

Masingill explained that along with the name change, the St. Tammany Corp. will have a new framework for how it handles business in the Parish. They will focus on many factors which include how the Parish’s various communities interact with each other to the role of government and tax incentives in economic development.

“This is not just an academic exercise,” Masingill said. “We’re looking at everything.”

A study will be conducted on how the agency wants to expand its “regional reach.” Masingill wants to establish a good working relationship with other agencies in the Parish, the economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc. and even over state lines.  The plan for the new framework is slated to be completed by year’s end.

 

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Even though the housing market continues to see rising home prices throughout the United States as supply is shrinking, the demand for buying a new home or buying a home for sale has tapered off slightly because of the rising interest rates. The good news is that the economy has finally rebounded from the devastating effects of the Recession, but that means that in order to stem inflation and keep the economy in check, the Fed had to raise interest rates. Because of the this, buyers are being more careful and thrifty with their money and the amount of money they can spend on their monthly mortgage note which translates for sellers that even though it’s very much a seller’s market, sellers are having to make concessions in order to close the deal with home buyers.

In June, 2018, sellers cut prices on approximately 14% of all home sales in order to close the sale. At the end of 2016, the lowest price cut by sellers was 11.7%, so price cuts are on the rise as home prices, having been on the rise, might be reaching their ceiling.

Simple supply and demand have been factors in the cost of homes and the affordability of homes. Rising interest rates have also affected affordability with the ability of buyers to make a larger monthly note. The supply of houses for sale was affected by two huge factors – the so-called “millenial” generation coming of age to be able to buy a home for sale and the disappearance of homes through the foreclosure process that were then turned into single-family rentals, removing them as purchasable homes on the market.

Also, builders recovering from the Recession were cautious as to how many construction loans they took on, having been burned by the Recession and standing inventory. The slow start of builders to start to get “spec houses” out for sale, sticking to the guaranteed deal of having contracts to build a new home or build a completely custom home also contributed to the lack of supply on the market.

Even though the slowdown of the housing market might seem alarming to some people, economists predict rightly that real estate is finally returning to a normal market. Nationwide, there is not a reflection of a total overall slowdown though. Different markets with different factors including job growth and corporate buy-in’s give different locations encouraging statistics. One such market is Austin, Texas, which is enjoying an incredible housing market because of an influx of technology jobs.

“We saw intense bidding on homes over the past few years, but that is calming down with more inventory in the area,” said B Barnett, a real estate agent at Reilly Realtors in Austin. “Our inventory of homes is going up with new construction, and it is helping transfer power back to the buyer.”

Economic forecasts for 2019 show a slowdown of the GDP as the effects of the tax cuts and stock market surge level off. If you are interested in skipping the challenge of supply and demand in your market and would like to just build your own new home in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Contact Ron Lee Homes, a custom home builder, directly at 985-626-7619 or email Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

 

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St. Tammany Parish is enjoying a robust housing market when it comes to the value and appreciation of homes for sale and new homes for sale. During the first 6 months of 2018, the price per square foot of homes in the Greater St. Tammany Parish area were calculated and then compared to 2017’s prices and the price per square foot of homes before Hurricane Katrina hit the Greater New Orleans area in 2005. The results of that comparison are spelled out below.

Homes for sale and new homes for sale which have seen a steady increase in value from Katrina to the first 6 months of the year include homes located in Folsom, Covington Central (70433), Madisonville, Mandeville (70471), Lacombe, Slidell (70460), and Abita Springs.

In Mandeville and Madisonville, the price per square foot during the first 6 months of 2018 is actually identical at $143 / square foot. In Mandeville, there was an increase of $31 and in Madisonville, there was an increase of $37 from 2005 to 2018. In Lacombe, there was an increase of $12, in Folsom it was an increase of $15, in Slidell (70460), there wan an increase of $14, and in Abita Springs, there wan an increase of $29.

The city which saw the biggest increase in the price per square foot of a home in St. Tammany Parish overall was Covington Central (70433) with an increase of $41 per square foot since 2005. Other cities saw an increase in 2017 and then a slight decrease in 2018, which is in line with the softening of the housing market as interest rates went up towards the middle / end of 2018. These cities inclued Bush, North Covington (70435), Pearl River, Slidell (70461), and Slidell (70458). In North Covington, the price per square foot of homes for sale stayed exactly the same from 2017 to 2018. In Pearl River, the price increased from $87 in 2005 to $105 in 2017 and then decreased to $100 in 2018. In Slidell (70461), there was also an increase from $87 in 2005 to $105 in 2017 to decrease just $2 to $103 in 2018.

Overall the increase in the price per square foot in St. Tammany Parish increased 3.1% from $118.70 to $122.40 per square foot. Average home pricing went from $253,553 to $264,754, and the city which saw the most amount of growth was in Madisonville. Residency increased in Madisonville to over 11,000 residents in 2018. This small charming town on the banks of the Tchefuncte River began as a town of 4,000 at the turn of the century, just to give context to the amount of growth.

So, if you’re in the market for a home to buy, check out the areas of St. Tammany Parish where you can afford to live. The housing market is hot right now, and available housing is tight – you might want to consider building your own home so that you get exactly what you want for the price you can afford. Call 985-626-7619 or Email Ron Lee Homes at Info@RonLeeHomes.com to start your building process today!

 

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The emergence of the St. Tammany Art Association (STAA), on December 1, 1958, was just the beginning of the life long celebration in the community of the arts. The idea of the origination’s concept came from the first meeting notes taken August 15, 1957 at a group meeting held at the Covington resident, Mrs. Miriam Barranger. In the notes it stated that their group’s motto was “to encourage education and interest in the fine arts in the community through lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and the screening of motion pictures. To sponsor classes in painting, sculpture, crafts and the fine arts generally.”

In the last sixty years, the STAA has not only lived out this motto, but the nonprofit, has superseded it by supporting local well-known and emerging artists. Throughout the years it has enriched the residents of St. Tammany Parish through cultural programs and activities such as three galleries, six annual art sttammanyartassociationmarkets, the Covington Art Market, Art Alley, the annual Fall for Art Festival, the annual Spring for Art Festival, both adult and children educational classes, holiday and summer camps, artists’ panel discussions and special programs such as Cancer to Canvas, Sizzlin’ Seniors and Veteran to Veteran.

With the development of Art Alley that runs along N. Columbia Street between STAA’s Art House and the historic H.J. Smith & Sons General Store, STAA brings a space for community gatherings and cultural commerce space. Kim Bergeron, the former executive director, turned the ordinary alley into a place of art celebration and the home of the Covington Art Market.  According to Bergeron, “Art Alley initiative is a Creative Placemaking effort designed to transform an ordinary alley into a community gathering and cultural commerce space. I intend to continue to work toward bringing that project to its full potential. The harmonica campfire concert with our Culture Camp children, led by GrayHawk Perkins, and the Holiday Children’s Tea in Art Alley were among my favorite events – truly magical. I see so many possibilities for Art Alley as a place to celebrate arts, culture and non-profit organizations.”

STAA will continue to serve the community and reach as many people from all walks of life in the celebration of art. As the nonprofit pursues a new executive director, STAA will remember their motto and all of the programs created by the former leader. Roswell Pogue, president of STAA’s board of directors describes Kim Bergeron by stating, “Her enthusiasm and drive have expanded our community outreach and profile. We are here, as an organization, to reach as many people from all walks of life as is possible, and Kim has been integral to that goal.”

 

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