By Kristy Armand
What a difference a year makes. A year ago, a few homes were under construction. Commercial buildings were more frames than solid walls. There was much more dirt than grass. Although the project had been in the planning and development stages for several years, it was still difficult at that point to get a clear picture of the vision the developers had for Walnut Grove, the Lake Area’s first Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) located on West Sallier Street in Lake Charles.
It’s a much different story this summer and the vision is definitely becoming more clear. The Model Home, which houses the sales office and design center, opened last fall on Jabez Drive, the community’s first residential street. Construction has been completed on several other houses on Jabez, which also features beautifully landscaped Marion Park, and families have started to make Walnut Grove their home.
Marcie and J. C. Harper recently moved into one of Walnut Groves’ Village home style on Jabez. It’s a creole-style, two-story paint over masonry façade with over 3,000 square feet of living space and courtyard area, and there’s a park right across the street for their young children to play in. The quality of the construction was also very important to the Harpers, as were the unique extra features that were built into the home, and the lifestyle that comes with living in a community like Walnut Grove.
A variety of home sizes and styles are planned for the community, including cozy cottages, Creole-style townhomes, courtyard homes inspired by the well-known architect A. Hayes Town, double galleries which will overlook Contraband Estuary and a few select custom-designed estates.
Walnut Grove’s model home gives anyone interested in moving to the development the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the quality of construction and design going into each home. Melissa Lewis, W. G. Realty’s sales and leasing coordinator, is the point of contact for residential home sales and can answer questions, schedule tours and walk potential homeowners through the process of learning about all the home options in Walnut Grove.
A key planning feature in Walnut Grove was green spaces and connectivity, hallmarks of TNDs. Within walking distance of every home in the community are parks and other beautifully landscaped green spaces, such as the Great Lawn where community-wide events like concerts and family movie screenings will be held, Market Square in the center of the retail area, and natural beauty of Contraband Bayou Estuary which will be showcased by a scenic boardwalk, which is part of the “walkability” of the community.
Gus Schram, Vice President of Development for Walnut Grove says, “TNDs focus on designing developments that are, pedestrian-friendly with sidewalks, wider streets and amenities like restaurants, stores – and banks – within easy walking distance.” It’s a planning trend based on old-fashioned common sense: When people are out walking, they get to know each other and form ties to each other and to the place they call home. They enjoy healthier lifestyles and they drive less, which can mean less fuel consumption and exhaust fumes.”
For this concept to work, says Schram, you have to have commercial and retail within walking distance, so that people everything people need is just a short walk away. “That’s the way towns developed in the past. From a town square, where stores and businesses were, homes were built within walking distance.”
Walnut Grove has this covered too – both commercial and residential aspects of the community are being developed simultaneously. Three commercial buildings are completed, and like the home styles, the buildings are classic and timeless, while offering all the latest amenities like underground utility services including fiber optic cable, copper LED streetlights and security.
The three-story Lawton building has 1,700 square feet still available from its overall 22,000 square feet, and is already home to Walnut Grove Development, L.L.C, Jack Lawton Companies and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. First Federal Bank opened a new branch in the three-story Post Office building, which is also home to the Walnut Grove Post Office and will be soon be the new location of the offices of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm, according to Matt Redd of W.G. Realty Company. The two-story commercial Market building, which is designed for dining and retail, is home to Restaurant Calla, which opened earlier this month and has quickly become one of the Lake Area’s most popular dining spots. “Calla stands for Calcasieu Louisiana,” and is owned by Chef David Sorrels who varies his menu based on the season’s produce.
Schram says future commercial plans include additional restaurants, a small market or grocery store, coffee shop, boutiques and many other professional offices and retail businesses.
Once completed, Walnut Grove will consist of approximately 180 homes and 92,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, spread over 60 acres.
For more information about any Walnut Grove property, contact W.G. Realty Co. at (337) 497-0825, or stop by the model home and sales office on Jabez Drive. Additional information is available on the development’s website www.walnutgrovetnd.com.
Walnut Grove Gives A Nod To History
Walnut Grove gives a nod to the history of the region as well. From the Victorian era in the late 1800s, through the year 1926, the original Walnut Grove in Lake Charles was located along the Calcasieu River front. It was one of the most significant social gathering places for residents of Lake Charles. Courting couples took long, romantic buggy rides around the lake. Fishermen cast their lines in the slow-moving river. Families enjoy a Sunday afternoon picnic in the shade along the water.
It was a serene oasis of natural beauty, perfumed by a wall of Cherokee roses, shaded by Cypress trees draped with Spanish Moss and bordered by an impressive grove of black walnut trees that gave the area its name. In the mid-1920s, the Port of Lake Charles took over the property and this scenic area took on a new and important role for the region’s growth and development. Schram notes that the streets and parks of Walnut Grove were named in honor of the people and places that impacted the area in meaningful ways. A list of these historic references is also on the website.