Ground is being broken and plans are coming to fruition at Gulfport's master-planned community of Tradition, just at less than the desired speed.
Land has been cleared on the northeast quadrant of the Mississippi 67 and Tradition Parkway intersection for a new neighborhood, or "village" called DeSoto Trails. And bids will go out later this year for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's new nursing and simulation complex just south of the William Carey University's Coast campus.
If there's one thing Tradition has not lacked, it's ambition. The new construction is another step toward the 10-year master plan, which has most of the 4,864 acres mapped out for development. Two golf courses, a health education and industry complex, retirement community, sports arena, aquatic center, retail space and walking trails are all planned.
Gerald Blessey, president of Columbus Communities LLC, said progress has been slower than expected but it has accelerated recently, with three lots being sold this month.
Of the 1,000 plots in the Village, 110 are sold and 75 families are living on site.
He said Tradition was about to break ground in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, had nearly gotten back on track in 2007 before the recession and also suffered effects of the 2010 oil spill.
"We're not down or out," he said. "But it was three strikes."
The Village was designed to be compact and walkable, with townhomes mixed in with multi-story houses ranging from $200,000 to more than $400,000. DeSoto Trails will have larger lots and homes only in the $200,000 range, which Blessey said is a "large segment of the market."
The goal, though, he said is to cater to many different housing niches.
The WCU campus and new nursing complex will form the anchor for a planned health corridor stretching from St. Patrick High School to the parkway.
Dr. Mary Graham, president of MGCCC, said the complex will consolidate the nursing classes offered at the four campuses and hopefully double the size of the school.
"We're really excited about it," she said. "We think it'll strengthen our program all the way around."
The school has already had to hire more instructors for the fall, she said, and will soon offer some online classes.
Monica Marlowe, chief advancement officer for WCU Tradition campus, said the campus was designed for 750 students and they are now serving closer to 900.
"We are beyond capacity now," she said.
The school is also a planning to offer a dual nursing and business degree (MSN/MBA), she said, because of demand from students and feedback from area hospitals.
The new MGCCC complex will funnel graduates with associates degrees into WCU's and the University of Southern Mississippi's graduate nursing programs.
Sales at master-planned communities nationwide have grown each year since the recession, according to RCLCO.com, which offers real estate analysis. This year's preliminary numbers actually show a leveling off, the latest report says, because of dwindling inventory.
Florida's massive retirement community, The Villages, has dominated the top-20 list for several years, which almost entirely includes developments in that state, Texas (particularly Houston) and California. However, Cane Bay Plantation in Charleston, S.C., broke into the list this year.
Realeastateconsulting.com credits retirees, foreign buyers in California and quality execution for the growth.
Many lessons have been learned from failed and failing master-planned communities. Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas, ranked No. 3 on the list, is a particularly good example of a well-executed one with an abundance of amenities, capturing the strong relocation market there.