Lake plan may make big splash

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. — A retirement community being planned for Lake Concordia could have a big impact on the area’s economy, said Buddy Spillers, president of the Macon Ridge Economic Development Region.

Plans are already being drawn for Panola Cove, a community of single-family houses being developed south of Lakeshore Drive. The first lots should be sold in the fall.

&uot;First, there is the money that will be spent building those homes,&uot;&160;Spillers said. &uot;And then there would be the taxes they would pay on the houses. It’s safe to say those dollars would turn over the economy seven times.&uot;

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Figures from the American Association of Retirement Communities show the average retired couple moving to a new home:

— Brings more than $250,000 in total assets.

— Has an average retirement income of $30,000.

— Equals 3.7 new minimum wage factory jobs.

— Has an average economic impact of $71,600.

The 65 million Americans over 50 spend more than $900 billion annually and have more than $160 billion in discretionary income, or surplus income they can afford to spend on everything from restaurant visits to new cars.

If Panola Cove features reasonably priced houses and is marketed well, it should do well, said Spillers, who lives near the site and worked in real estate for 20 years.

As people move out of cities and into country settings, the market should continue to be good for such developments, added Vidalia real estate agency C.V. &uot;Butch&uot;&160;Nichols.

&uot;If prices are reasonable, I’d say it should do well,&uot;&160;Nichols said. &uot;It would attract some people locally as well as those from farther away.&uot;

The local market for such a development will be dictated by the prices of the houses and any restrictions placed on property in the development, Spillers said.

&uot;But I think it will work,&uot;&160;he said.

Spillers noted many of the people who move to Lake Concordia from throughout Louisiana do so because of the availability of recreational opportunities in the area, primarily fishing on the lake.

Troy Watkins, a Natchez resident working to get a United Methodist Senior Services of Mississippi senior housing development into the Natchez area, said Panola Cove would not be competing with the Methodist development.

&uot;Ours is a non-profit operation, for one thing,&uot;&160;Watkins said. &uot;Also, we would have 40 individual units and also 30 assisted living units, and they would probably be apartments, not free-standing houses.&uot;

The development will be located on 33 acres near Beau Pre Country Club on U.S. 61 South. The assisted living units would be for people who need minimal help to live on their own. Architects are now drawing plans for that development, Watkins said.

Panola Cove developers Cecil and Liz Brooking declined to be interviewed.