By Masako Hirsch, The Times-Picayune
on May 23, 2010 at 6:33 AM
A sealed-bid auction on foreclosed property in the Bedico Creek subdivision in western St. Tammany Parish will be held in November. Few of the 25 or so homes are occupied and only a small portion of the 900 acre tract built around a golf course is developed. Wednesday, October 22, 2008, photos.
Two years ago, a Madisonville subdivision called Bedico Creek folded while still under development, leaving homes half-finished and lots choked with tall grasses. Now, another developer has purchased the community and plans to revitalize it.
David Waltemath, a local developer whose former work includes English Turn Golf and Country Club and Lakewood Estates, bought Bedico Creek from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and closed on the deal last week. Waltemath said he bought the subdivision because it was an “incredible opportunity at an incredible price,” although the price remains undisclosed.
Construction in Bedico Creek came to a halt in 2008 after the bank seized more than 900 acres from then-developer George McClure. McClure sold lots to home builders, who were to build houses on them. But those builders said McClure never installed basic utility services, built the stately entrance he promised or developed the golf course.
While real estate markets around the country have endured waves of foreclosures in recent years, the 900-lot Bedico Creek community became one of the few examples in Louisiana of a subdivision to suffer a hard fall.
But Waltemath said he thinks the perception of Bedico Creek can turn around quickly, especially based on his finances.
“They were straddled with debt, and we have zero debt,” he said.
In addition, Waltemath said he plans to change the identity of the subdivision. Although Bedico Creek was originally billed as a golf and country club, Waltemath said he will not revive work on the golf course, which was already halfway completed by the time construction stopped.
“No. 1 is, I don’t think golf courses work,” Waltemath said. “There are too many golf courses in our area, and a lot of them are in trouble. We’ve got too many other distractions.”
Waltemath added that there are not as many golfers in the area as there are in places such as California or Florida.
“The numbers didn’t make sense,” Waltemath said.
Instead, Waltemath said he plans to develop the area into parks and walking trails. Golf courses, Waltemath said, are for an “exclusive few,” but green space can be used by everyone in the community.
“No other communities have that,” Waltemath said. “That is going to make us special.”
Ron Lee, president of Ron Lee Homes and the St. Tammany-Washington Parishes Home Builders Association, said he is looking forward to the work. Lee said he believes there is a demand for the type of houses offered in Bedico Creek.
“We’re excited for what they have planned,” Lee said. “Immediately, you’re going to see changes there.”
Lee is also a builder in the subdivision and described it in its current state as a “black eye in the community.”
“What I’ve had to deal with is sitting on land that is not worth what we paid for it. We haven’t been able to move the property,” Lee said. “We hear people talking negatively about it, and I understand. We have to change the perception in the minds of the general public.”
Chris Inman, president of Coldwell Banker TEC in Mandeville, said it will take time before Bedico Creek can get over its past.
“There’s going to be a lot of skepticism before people jump in,” Inman said.
Yet Waltemath has an excellent reputation as a developer, Inman said. “If anyone can do the job right, it’s him,” he said.
Even so, the entire area is facing an oversupply of houses and a lack of demand. This, Inman noted, may prove problematic for Bedico Creek as it has for other developments, since the issue has dragged on for several years.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Inman said.
Waltemath, however, is looking at long-term plans for the subdivision for when the market returns.
He said the unfortunate circumstances under which he bought the development have given it the chance to become better.
“It’s going to bring tremendous value to future buyers,” Waltemath said.