[Editor's Note: This story was updated with new information on estimates for the cost of the Monroe TND and time frame for its buildout, as well as IBM's decision to anchor an office building in the development's Town Center.]
CenturyLink Inc. has chosen Southern Lifestyle Development, the entity behind River Ranch, Lafayette’s first traditional neighborhood development, to create the master plan for a TND along U.S. Highway 165 in Monroe. The TND is directly across from the CenturyLink's corporate headquarters.
The hiring of Southern Lifestyle follows a competitive selection process for the 88-acre development, for which IBM will serve as an anchor tenant in a 100,000-square-foot office building thanks to an innovative public-private partnership involving the two telecom giants and the state. IBM will occupy about half of the office complex, which will be constructed in the TND's Town Center. Other tenants in the Southern Lifestyle Development-owned building are expected to be companies that do business with CenturyLink or IBM.
The entire TND is an estimated $200 million project with a five-year buildout, according to River Ranch Development Managing Partner Robert Daigle. The mixed-use, compact development will include a complementary blend of residential, commercial and recreational uses, all in a walkable, bicycle-friendly environment. Such communities typically include residential products from apartments and condominiums to cottages and estate homes, as well as commercial uses that range from professional office to retail and restaurants, and recreational uses that include fitness and wellness centers, passive and active parks and walking paths.
New York-based IBM confirmed Feb. 16 that it will establish a 400-job Application Development and Innovation Center in the Monroe TND, from which the company will provide software technology services to clients across the U.S. IBM will open and staff the center, "creating at least 400 new roles for experienced professionals and drawing heavily on graduates from the state's colleges and universities."
In addition to the 400 direct jobs resulting from the 10-year agreement between the two publicly traded telecom giants and the state, Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in approximately 406 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 800 new permanent jobs in Northeast Louisiana.
"The rapid adoption of mobile and social technologies over recent years is driving fundamental transformations to business processes and applications," IBM notes in a press release announcing the partnership between the two companies and the state. "The center will provide IBM's clients with services that address the increasing demand for flexible software services to create value from big data, cloud computing and mobile-led business transformation."
IBM says it will work closely with local professors to recommend curriculum innovations focused on technology, math and software development in order to equip students to meet the growing demand for business services, including advanced analytics, process innovation and application development.
The center in Monroe is the second IBM center in Louisiana, modeled on a successful IBM skills hub in Baton Rouge in 2013. Both centers are part of IBM's globally integrated network of client service centers.
As part of the CenturyLink/IBM deal, the state is offering $4.5 million in funding over 10 years to expand key higher education programs, including the computer science program at UL Monroe, the cyber engineering program at Louisiana Tech, and the data analytics program at Grambling State University. In addition, the state is providing $12 million for construction of IBM's offices.
“The success of our developments comes from a well-defined master plan that thoughtfully considers the lifestyles, professions and daily needs of the diverse population who make up our community. We are honored to have been chosen by CenturyLink to bring our passion for quality-of-life development to CenturyLink and the city of Monroe,” Daigle said in a prepared release.
In 2008 the Village of River Ranch was named one of America’s 14 best urban villages in the book Creating Great Town Centers and Urban Villages, published by the Urban Land Institute.
CenturyLink is the third largest telecom company in the country. Along with Southern Lifestyle and Architects Southwest, which planned River Ranch and Youngsville TND Sugar Mill Pond, it will spend the next two months working through the master plan for the Monroe development.