Work has begun on the cottage-style houses of Walnut Grove, a traditional neighborhood development designed to look as if it evolved naturally over the course of a century. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 11:26 AMWalnut Grove, the Lake Area’s first Traditional Neighborhood Development, is looking more like a neighborhood every day.
Families have started to make it their home. Among them are J.C. and Marcie Harper and their two children.
“Last summer we came by and I could just feel the excitement and I knew I wanted to be here,” Marcie, a Carlyss native, said. “My son rides his bike all over the place. It’s easy to get him to school at Our Lady Queen of Heaven. Our home is beautiful and in the middle of Lake Charles. I can’t think of another place quite like Walnut Grove.”
The Harper’s live in one of the Village home styles. It’s a creole-style, two-story paint over masonry façade with over 3,000 square feet of living space and courtyard areas. There’s not much in the way of a yard to tend, which appeals to the Harpers. “We lived in an older home in Nacogdoches,” Marcie said. The children’s rooms were really small. Now they actually have enough space in their rooms to play in there,” she said.
J.C. isn’t quite as extroverted as his wife, but thinks if any development suits a personality like hers, it’s one like Walnut Grove that gives families the opportunity to make connections. “She had a store here years ago, Mary-Margaret’s, and I’d watch her at work sometimes. She knew everybody. She made conversation with customers. She’d hug everybody,” he said. “That sense of community matters to her and to our family.”
“A couple of the things I noticed right away after we moved in here is the view and how well-lighted everything is at night,” J.C. said. He also mentioned the quality construction. They’ve been doing a lot of work around here on other homes and buildings, but when we’re in the house, we can’t hear a thing. That’s pretty amazing.”
Other Village-style houses, like the Harper’s are now complete. These are mid-sized family homes, but a variety of 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, sales office and design center are housed within another Village home style, the Octavia, which 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. 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 certain health benefits and they fire up their automobiles less, which can mean less fuel consumption and exhaust fumes. (Think old-time town square.)
For this concept to work, says Schram, you have to have commercial and retail within walking distance, so that 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 (or are nearly complete), 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, streetlights, sidewalks and security.
The most recent business addition to this West Sallier Street community is Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm, according to Matt Redd of W.G. Realty Company. The three-story Lawton building has over 1,700 square feet available 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 home to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. The two-story commercial Market building, which is designed for dining and retail, will be the home of Restaurant Calla, a place that Walnut Grove home owners like the Harpers can’t wait to see open its doors. “Calla stands for Calcasieu Louisiana,” and is owned by Chef David Sorrels who plans to vary his menu based on the season’s produce.
Future commercial plans include additional restaurants, an organic grocery store, coffee shop, boutiques and many other 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 Company, L.L.C., at (337) 497-0825, or stop by the Model Home and Sales Office on Jabez Drive. Additional information is also available on the development’s website: www.walnutgrovetnd.com.
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 enjoed Sunday afternoon picnics 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.