A development dream
By Becky Gillette • Photography by Tom Beck
Reunion in Madison, arguably the most upscale, multi-faceted, planned community ever developed in Mississippi, came about almost as an accident. And, several former Delta residents now have homes in Reunion and commute to the Delta for work.
Attorney David H. Nutt purchased the 2,100-acre site in the late 1990s thinking to use it as recreational property. But when it became apparent that one of Mississippi’s fast-growing cities, Madison, was expanding in the direction of the property, Nutt decided to put the land to use creating a residential and commercial development to be rivaled by none in the state.
As an attorney with David H. Nutt & Associates, Ridgeland, Nutt began his practice defending corporations in major civil lawsuits. He practiced many different types of law before over time developing a practice that included representing about 20,000 workers exposed to asbestos and participating in the national tobacco litigation. But Nutt’s biggest legacy to the state—and what he is most excited to talk about—isn’t his work with asbestos or tobacco, but instead his vision to create a community with every amenity a resident could possibly dream of.
“It is probably the nicest subdivision that has ever been developed in the state of Mississippi,” Nutt said. “That is just a fact. Reunion has so many amenities like 400 acres of lakes, a white, sandy beach, a full-service country club, an Olympic-size pool, golf, tennis, swimming, miles of hiking\biking paths and an equine center for horses. There is nothing like it in the state of Mississippi. It is a great place for children. It is a very safe community and is very kid friendly. And it is conveniently located within the city limits of Madison and only five miles to the interstate and another five miles into Jackson.”
Nutt came to own the Reunion property because of a long-time interest in investing in land. In addition to the property in Madison County, he has invested in cattle and recreational hunting land in Texas, Wyoming and New Mexico. He recalls first getting interested in the Reunion property because he drove by it every day on Highway 463 on his way to work.
“One day a lawyer approached me who had a client who wanted to sell an undivided interest in the property,” Nutt said. “There were several other remaining heirs to the property that I eventually bought out. I intended to just hold the property. There was a home there we used as a hunting lodge. At some point in time, development was moving out Highway 463 at a rapid pace and I decided it would be in the best interest of the property to go ahead and look into residential development possibilities. Having the property in the path of the development required me to either sell it or develop it to keep the integrity of the property value of the whole piece. H.C. Bailey Company, headed by Buster Bailey, was hired to develop a development plan. We began developing the property and sold the first lot in 2003.”
“What we realized right from the get go was to do it as a whole planned development so the property was integrated and would keep its property values,” Nutt said. “We created a development plan that encompasses the entire property from the beginning. We wanted a product with consistency. I think the evidence of the success of that is that Reunion currently has 800 homes that are either occupied or under construction with 1,700 to 1,800 total homes planned. We are not half finished with Reunion yet.”
Reunion used the Bailey Company for about five years. After that Nutt took over the reins and started developing the property in house.
Nutt said the topography dictates much of how the lots are laid out. Homes are configured around amenities like the golf course and 400-acres of lakes. There is a wide range of square footage of homes in Reunion.
“Some of the bigger homes are on waterfront and golf course fronting lots,” Nutt said. “Some moderate houses front natural areas. Most of the homes, including houses at lower prices, are typically second homes–usually young professionals moving into their second home. We have homes that start at the upper $300s. They go well into the low millions. While we have a lot of young families, we also have senior retired residents enjoying the Reunion lifestyle.”
One benefit homeowners get is being surrounded by nature. Of the 2,100 acres, over 600 acres is green space which includes 400 acres of lakes. The golf course covers about 275 acres. That puts almost half the property as natural areas.
Reunion is so attractive that it even has a least one resident who commutes to work in the Delta. For other residents who work in the capital area, it is an easy drive to work.
Reunion is Nutt’s pride and joy. “I am really proud of Reunion,” Nutt said. “It is a legacy type property. It is just a wonderful place for families to live. I’m real proud in having provided that. It will be a family legacy for our children and grandchildren.”
Sometimes it is the bad times that can tell the most about a development. The housing recession in 2008 had an impact on Reunion. Their sales fell off 50 percent.
“But that was better than 95 percent which happened in a lot of real estate development,” Nutt said. “I think because of the uniqueness of the Reunion development, we were able to weather the storm better than a lot of various generic housing developments. During that time, banks and appraisers wanted us to drop our lot prices, but we never did that. That would have hurt all of our existing residents. We were able to sustain our values, stay above water the three to four years of the recession, and have come out now to where we are now back to 2006 and 2007 lot sales levels.”
What exists today might be considered a sort of second generation of Reunion. They built all the lakes and other amenities, and now are moving forward increasing offerings.
“So, a lot of neat things are happening,” Nutt said. “We’re opening our 33,000-square-foot clubhouse this year. It is a big deal, a $15-million construction project. The clubhouse will have two restaurants, one more informal and a formal dining room built where it can be sectioned off. There will be seating for 250 for sit down dining and room for a standup crowd of 500. We are also doubling the size of the fitness center and will have a full-service spa.
“We provide amenities for neighborhood residents who are not members of the country club such as freestanding pools and parks separate from the country club. “The emphasis at Reunion leans towards active families with numerous activities and special events that do not require membership to the country club.”
Nutt’s wife, Kristie, plays a key role at Reunion.
“She is more involved in the development of Reunion than I am,” Nutt said. “When you talk about David Nutt, you are really talking about David and Kristie. She along with a close friend are doing most of the interior design work on the clubhouse.”
The new clubhouse is not the only new amenity under construction presently at Reunion. About $40 million total is currently being invested overall, in addition to the more than $120 million previously invested in the entire development.
Nutt is still involved in legal work involving complex large projects including pollution and water rights cases. He usually works more in an advisory role for attorneys with large cases. And he also has other ventures in business and real estate.
Nutt received his undergraduate degree and law degree at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). He says part of the reason he went to law school is that he loved college so much he didn’t want to leave. And since leaving, he has been a major financial supporter of Ole Miss; with the result of the David H. Nutt Auditorium on campus being named in his honor. While he has made numerous other gifts, he gives most of his donations to Ole Miss and others anonymously. “I kind of like it that way,” he said.
Nutt’s hobbies including hunting and fishing, including in the Delta. “I’ve fished all my life at Eagle Lake and the river lakes,” he said. “I raise cattle in New Mexico and Texas. I like to quail hunt and have bird dogs. I play golf.”