An Urban Forest

By Valier Wells
Hattiesburg, MS (August 31, 2008)- Still under construction, a gated community in north Hattiesburg is considered a model urban forest. The Mississippi Forestry Commission has recognized The Preserve, near the emerging University of Southern Mississippi Innovation and Commercialization Park, as the state’s model urban forest.


“North Hattiesburg is growing,” said Ric Corts, a real estate agent with Re/Max who is selling the 98 lots near Lake Sehoy and not too far from the Interstate 59 and U.S. 49 interchange. Developers Brad Brian of Hattiesburg and Roger Herbert of Baton Rouge have protected green space and trees along corridors and on lots. Home sites are designed to allow construction while keeping the integrity of natural resources.
Calling it a progressive development, Corts said the “character of living” and an appreciation of environmental issues are the driving factors for the subdivision in Lamar County and just outside the city limits of Hattiesburg. Water quality, decreased utility costs and increased property values are benefits.
The streets are already paved and curbed, the utilities are all underground and drainage follows natural patterns. Trees are everywhere and building crews work around these assets. Corts said the natural emphasis appeals to homebuyers. The natural buffers, occasional deer and sense of going green all make for one marketable location.
Being close to the new $32 million Innovation and Commercialization Park is an added plus. Actually, to get to the subdivision requires driving by the park’s buildings. Corts said many homebuyers would enjoy being in the same neighborhood as the high technology campus with projected well-paying jobs. The park would be home to a lab that polymer scientists could use to create new products and sell them.
One of the attractive aesthetics that Southern Miss officials are using to attract high-tech companies to the park are longleaf pine trees, said Cecil Burge, vice president of research and economic development at Southern Miss. “This is a multi-year build out,” Burge said. It may be 10 years to 20 years before the park is completed.
According to the Association of University Research Parks, every job in a research park generates an average of 2.57 jobs in the economy, resulting in a total employment impact of more than 750,000 jobs. “What they really are is a way for universities, businesses, and government to work together to create synergy and productivity and also create knowledge,” said Eileen Walker, executive director of Association of University Research Parks, based in Tucson, Ariz.
“The bottom line is they exist to create innovation, commercialization and economic competitiveness. In one word, that’s jobs. It’s holistic. It’s a way of creating community,” Walker said. “We’ve had over 50 companies talk to us since Hurricane Katrina,” Burge said. The Preserve would like to include some of the high-end entrepreneurs and researchers among its homeowners. The lots aren’t cheap, starting at $55,000 and going up to $95,000.
The Innovation and Commercialization Park is to the north of The Preserve. To the south is the Longleaf Trace bicycle trial, a Rails-to-Trails recreational park built over old rail beds.
Related Resources:
Hattiesburg American- An Urban Forest
Mississippi Urban Forest Council