The area this article is talking about is prime cp land.
Originally Posted by [bQuote[/b] ]So long, rural byways
By Paul R. Jefferson
It's all about the traffic. And some developers are betting that a new bridge and thousands of new homes will create just the kind they need.
Around the intersection of Midway Road and N.C. 211, the seeds are being planted for a retail mecca bigger than any existing commercial centers in Brunswick County.
Where a convenience store best known as "Worms and Coffee" now stands alone, a trio of shopping centers will soon rise, with a combined area of 150 acres and commercial space totaling almost 870,000 square feet. It will be more spread out but almost as big as Westfield Independence mall, which has 1.1 million square feet of store space.
The Midway Road/N.C. 211 corridor, for a long time a stretch of roadway identified more for an absence of residential or commercial development, has become the hottest spot on county Planning Department maps.
The near-coast area is rapidly getting filled up, said Helen Evans Bunch, Brunswick County zoning administrator.
Spurring the developments are the road's location and its role as the transit point for future traffic from the second Oak Island bridge, scheduled to be built by 2010.
At Midway Road, nearly all of the surrounding land on either side of N.C. 211 has been rezoned from rural residential to commercial use. "All of the land has been rezoned, but not all have projects on them," Bunch said. "And all of them are mixed-use projects," combining residential with retail and commercial projects.
In the past two and a half years, she said, the county has approved 13,004 homes for the N.C. 211 corridor - more than a third of the total 35,606 approved for the unincorporated areas of the county.
Motor vehicle traffic is expected to grow exponentially there as new residents move in and the new bridge provides access to the county's largest town.
Three large commercial developments are converging to serve as anchors at the Midway Road/N.C. 211 junction. Both the planned Midway Landing commercial development, comprising 13.1 acres on the intersection's northeast quadrant, and the 98-acre Midway Station site on the southwest quadrant were approved by county planners in November, though no construction has begun.
In mid-June, Lowes Foods announced plans to build a retail and business center on 39 acres of the northwest quadrant, directly behind the Midway Trading Post, aka "Worms and Coffee."
The Lowes project will include 80,000 square feet of retail space, and an additional 80,000 square feet of leased space for additional stores or medical offices. The supermarket, the third Lowes in the county, is expected to be open in 2009, said company spokeswoman Dianne Blancato.
"Since the project is in its initial stages, we do not know who the other tenants will be at this point," she said. "It is possible that some of the retail space could be leased to companies that operate in other Lowes Foods shopping centers.... We anticipate we will begin marketing the space in October."
According to Planning Department documents, Midway Landing will include four buildings up to 40 feet tall fronting both Midway Road and N.C. 211. The project developer is listed as William Batuyious.
Midway Station, across the way, will have more room for retailers, with 11 buildings planned for the site. Tom Young is listed as the land's owner.
Midway Station is the largest commercial development approved to date in an unincorporated area of the county, Bunch said.
Dan Weeks, a land planner and landscape architect from HadenStanziale in Wilmington, represents the developers on both sides of N.C. 211.
With 98 acres to work with, the Midway Station property is more than double the size of Westfield Independence mall, which covers 44.2 acres in the middle of Wilmington.
"We see a hotel site, a professional/medical office, retail and home improvement," he said.
Weeks said construction of the commercial centers would take from 2006 until 2012 or perhaps longer, depending on factors such as the pace of residential growth and road improvements. Across the road, the smaller commercial project could house a grocery store, a drugstore with a drive-through window and a bank branch, among other things, Weeks said.
For comparison purposes, at 13.1 acres, Midway Landing is roughly the size of the Hanover Center, across from Westfield Independence mall.
Karen Sphar, executive director of the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce, said the new retail projects bode well for the area, promising to cut down on drive times for current and new residents.
She said the chamber has a minor role in recruiting retailers to populate the shopping centers.
"We do provide information to companies looking for relocation. What happens is they go out and solicit for the anchor store. If they need data on types of businesses and where they are located, we give it to them. Or they ask people on our board what they might like to see. Most of the time, they come in and don't identify themselves with any particular firm and do a lot of work on what type of businesses are in the area," Sphar said.
The head of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce in Shallotte, Mitzi York, said shopping centers are an expected offshoot of the residential boom along N.C. 211.
York said the Midway Road retail sites will add a third or fourth major commercial center to the growing county, joining the Leland area, with a new Wal-Mart center on the way; Shallotte, with a Belk store anchoring its main shopping plaza; and the Southport-Oak Island market.
She said optimism over the economic growth is tempered by concern about increased traffic.
"Everybody knows that we should be concerned. There will be a lot of impact on 211. Transportation and infrastructure improvements will be a big part of what's to come, especially with the new state port also coming in," York said. "It will be important for it to be done right."
Shelley Lesher, mayor of St. James, said that while she and other St. James residents look forward to commercial development, the proposed Midway Road projects are in the St. James Fire District and would increase the coverage area.
At planning hearings last fall, she originally wanted planners to delay the retail projects until improvements were made to beef up the number of fire hydrants. Only two hydrants, widely spaced, are currently located in the area.
Unless developers contribute money to build another fire substation, the shopping centers would put too much demand on the fire departments from St. James, Sunset Harbor/Zion Hill and Bolivia, she said.