A packed audience of potential buyers and curious residents listen to plans for Hernando West, the sprawling, upscale residential community, which is projected to nearly double the existing size of the city's population over the next 20 years.

Courtesy Photo

Packed audiences at two separate charrettes or presentations on the proposed upscale Hernando West development, north and west of historic downtown Hernando, gives Hernando West principal Steven Katz encouragement the real estate deal his company made back in 2005-06 will at last bear fruit.

The Katz team of investors, ALF Katz Hernando West, LLC, reportedly paid just under $20 million for the property a decade ago, just before the nation's economic meltdown and the tanking of the U.S. economy.

Hernando West is now under a new set of owners and principals, including Katz.

Hernando Ventures, LLC purchased the 1,139-acre parcel known as the Banks property in 2014. Katz, of Warrington, Pa., was an original developer with the project.

The project will include a mix of upscale shops, mid-size and large homes on small lots, a Town Center with commercial businesses not far from the existing historic Square, and active senior living on the northern perimeter.

Katz said the same high quality he promised to potential buyers back in 2006-2007 remains the same.

Hernando West is being compared to Harbor Town in Memphis with a portion to have an urban center with residential lofts and commercial development and another more rural area to have larger, estate-sized homes similar to those found at Schilling Farms in Collierville, Tenn..

Throw in an age-restricted 55-and-over community and according to Katz, the plan has "a little something for everyone."

"The process has continued with the downturn in the market," said Katz, adding that the real estate market is decidedly upbeat again. "We feel the time is right to begin that process. The market is right."

The portion being marketed at the charrette this past week included the 55-and-over community, which will be located on the northeastern portion of the sprawling development.

Hernando West's planning withstood the jolt and aftershocks of the Great Recession in 2008, and returned with new ownership in 2012. New partners Mary Lee and Bill Brown, who was attorney for the first round of owners; David Acuff and Sarah Steen joined with Katz, who has been with the project since the beginning.

Phase I is in the plan's Region 1, known as the Historic Mansion Neighborhood due to its location on the corner of Elm and Commerce Streets, leafy and shady with venerable trees and the intersection of two Historic Districts.

The section stretches north to the Water Donation parcel, and west almost to South Street, and includes the circa-1909, Greek Revival mansion, purchased as their home by Dr. Preston and Meredith McAlexander and being renovated by them in keeping with requirements of the city's historic preservation ordinance.

Last fall, the city approved a Phase I request by the developer to reduce the number of lots from 43 to seven on 12.7 acres. Katz said the decision came after review of more detailed environmental studies showed the change could save more tree canopy; revised lots will range from four-tenths of an acre to 2.25 acres.

Most of the lots have been sold, and lot owners are already working with architects on home designs.

Phase I also calls for development of common open space, including the first trailhead off Elm Street, and trails leading to the Water Donation parcel that will become a park, said Katz. With the start of Phase I, he added, the development team will begin site improvements and consumer research for the Active Lifestyle Village for residents 55 and over at Robertson Road and Pine Tree Loop.

Edie Smith, Executive Vice President & Director of Research for Promatura, an Oxford-based national research firm, conducted the most recent charrette at One Memphis Street in downtown Hernando.

"We want your honest opinions," Smith said. "What sort of amenities do you want to see in the community?"

More than 77 percent of the respondents to a survey at the charrette had considered moving to an upscale senior community. A community with walking trails and greenspace close to a historic town square and the flagship library in a five-county area is also a draw.

"There will be hundreds of acres of natural greenspace with this development and lots of homestyle choices," Smith said. "It will be an extension of the town square and five miles of existing trails that will affect parks and neighbors."

Katz pointed out the development will be a five-minute walk to trails and parks and a 15-minute walk to the library.

"Our starting point will be 55 and over," Katz said, adding that 80 percent of the homeowners must be 55 and over to live in the age-restricted portion of the community, which more than likely will be gated.

A fitness center, swimming pool and recreational trail will be among the amenities.

No apartment complexes are planned at this time in the development, other than loft units in the urban center. Townhomes, condominiums and detached homes are also a part of the planned development.

"We are excited about the future," Katz said.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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Been talking for a long time. When they starting?

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