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Preparing for Publix

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08/08/2017 | 02:19am CEST

Aug. 07--The developer building a Publix grocery store in Waynesville paid $4.275 million for 6.7 acres on Russ Avenue in a land deal that closed late last week.

The Publix site sits catty-corner across the street from Ingles and makes an L-shape around Sage Brush. The complicated land transaction involved four tracts with four different owners. Sage Brush refused to sell, forcing the developer to work around it.

The Publix complex will be called Waynesville Pavilion. Publix did not purchase the land itself. Instead, a Charlotte commercial developer called MAB American Management bought the land and will develop the site, then lease it to Publix.

The land cost is just a portion of the total price tag. Site work and construction will cost $15 to $20 million, according to an estimate shared by the development firm during a Waynesville town planning board meeting in May.

Meanwhile, Ingles quietly purchased an 8-acre tract adjacent to its Waynesville store off Russ Avenue for $1 million in early July. The linear tract runs the length of Ingles' property behind the old Belks building. Ingles declined to comment on why it wanted the land in a story in last Wednesday's paper.

Publix will sit roughly two football fields back from Russ Avenue, but will still be visible since the site is being elevated with retaining walls. Thanks to Waynesville's architectural and site design standards, the attractive building façade and landscaped site will be an aesthetic improvement for Russ Avenue.

Joe and Gail Sutton, who built The Lodge motel in the early 1990s, said the sale was bittersweet but inevitable.

"We'll probably all be crying tonight, but it was coming, so it was the right thing to do," Gail said last week while packing up final mementos before vacating the property.

"It really hurts us to leave, but a million plus would be hard for anyone to turn down," Joe added.

The Mountaineer has tackled some of the "Frequently Asked Questions" surrounding the Publix grocery story in today's issue.

What's the first thing people will see happening on the site?

An initial phase of the project will be demolition. Several buildings must torn down and hauled away, including The Lodge motel, the strip mall behind Sage Brush, and the long row of warehouses up Frazier Street.

The next step will be extensive grading.

When will construction start and finish?

An official construction timeline nor target opening date has been publicly shared. However, construction is expected to take 18 months, according to statement the developer made during a presentation to the planning board when presenting plans during a public hearing . We have also learned from third-party sources that the goal is to open the store by the end of 2018.

Who's developing the site?

A commercial development company called MAB American Management purchased the site and will develop it. The principal developer, John Argo of the Charlotte area, has vacationed in Haywood County for three decades, specifically Lake Junaluska. That's one reason Waynesville was on his radar for a commercial complex, as well as its demographics and anticipation of continued growth, Argo told The Mountaineer in May.

What's the deal with the retaining walls?

The plan calls for extensive grading to make the site level.

The right side of the site -- where The Lodge sits now -- is substantially higher than the left side of the site -- where the strip mall and warehouse row is now.

To achieve a uniform elevation, the right side of the site will be graded down and the left side will be built up, explained Elizabeth Teague, the town of Waynesville's development services director.

An eight-foot retaining wall will be built along the left side of the site flanking Frazier Street.

How will you get in and out?

There will be two entrances to Waynesville Pavilion. One will be off Russ Avenue where the existing driveway to The Lodge is. The entrance will have two lanes turning into the site: one for cars turning in right and one for cars turning in left. When pulling out from this entrance onto Russ Avenue, only right-turns will be allowed.

The second entrance will be off Frazier Street, which has an existing stop light at the Chick Fil A intersection. Traffic projections anticipate about 65 percent of those coming and going to Publix will use the Frazier Street entrance, according to Jonathan Woodard, district engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

"It depends on how busy traffic is. During busier times of day, people will probably be better off using the signal," Woodard said.

Can Russ Avenue handle the additional traffic?

The busiest section of Russ Avenue is traveled by 23,000 vehicles per day, according to DOT traffic counts. Waynesville Commons will generate a projected 6,000 vehicle trips a day, with 201 cars coming and going during the peak morning hour and 569 during the peak afternoon hour, according to the developer's projections. That doesn't mean traffic volume on Russ will grow by an extra 6,000 cars a day, however, since some of those going to Publix will be existing vehicles traveling along Russ Avenue anyway.

The developer is required to make improvements to both Russ Avenue and Frazier Street at their own expense to accommodate the additional traffic.

"We look at how much traffic the development expects to generate so we can decide what type of auxiliary lanes are warranted," explained Brain Burch, regional DOT project development engineer.

What road work will be done?

A new dedicated right-turn lane will be built along Russ Avenue leading into the site. It will be about 300-feet long -- going from the bottom of the by-pass exit ramp to a driveway entrance where The Lodge is now.

Woodard does not expect cars to back up and overflow out of this turn lane.

"There is plenty of room for vehicle storage in that right lane," Woodard said, adding it is long enough for about 15 to 20 cars before it would back up in Russ Avenue or into to the bypass exit ramp.

A lane of Russ Avenue coming in to town will be closed at some point during the construction of this new right-turn lane into Publix. Woodard has not gotten an indication of when that might be or how long a lane might be closed.

The developer will also widen the Frazier Street by adding a third lane. The additional lane will be a dedicated left-turn lane for cars pulling out onto Russ Avenue from Frazier Street.

A major redesign to all of Russ Avenue is currently in the planning stages and is expected to begin in about three years. The road work for Waynesville Commons was designed to dovetail with the future plans for Russ Avenue, Teague said.

What's the developer's next step?

Now that the land purchase has gone through, the developer's first step is permitting.

Before any work can commence, the developer must get a sediment and erosion control permit from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

"Before they can have heavy equipment doing any demolition, they would need an erosion and sediment control plan approval," said Bridget Munger, spokesperson for N.C. DEQ.

The permit has not been applied for yet, but if the developer submits a solid erosion control plan out of the gate, it could only take a few weeks for the state to review and approve it from the time of application. If the plan needs modifying, it could take longer.

Do they have their other permits?

Three permits are required from the town of Waynesville. The developer has not applied for any of them yet. But that's not unusual. A developer typically doesn't apply for permits until the land sale has closed.

One of the necessary town permits is a zoning permit. It will mostly be a formality, however, since the town already approved a site design concept that jives with the town's development standards. But an official zoning permit still has to be issued.

The also will need a demolition permit from the town of Waynesville.

The building permit will come last, and will ensure the architectural design is in keeping with Waynesville's aesthetic development standards. The contractor is typically the one who applies for the building permit, Teague said.

So does this mean it's really happening?

Rumors that a Publix might be coming to Waynesville percolated most of last year. The Mountaineer first reported on the hot topic in October 2016 with the headline "Evidence of a Publix store is only circumstantial."

The Mountaineer had learned that a commercial developer with a track record of building Publix stores had signed "intent to purchase" contracts with property owners on Russ Avenue.

Then in May 2017, The Mountaineer substantiated the rumors further by uncovering development plans submitted to the town of Waynesville with Publix' name on the side of a building schematic.

Publix officially confirmed its intent to bring a store to Waynesville with a press release in two weeks ago saying it had "executed a lease agreement" for the store. The developer likely wanted a formal lease agreement in place with Publix to make sure the tenant was committed before closing on the land.

The lease between Publix and the site developer, MAB, was just recorded with the Haywood County Register of Deeds this week, but was dated July 19. Details of the lease arrangement were scant, other than it was for a 20 year period, with options to renew every five years after that. It did not indicate how much Publix was paying for the lease.

The last and final piece of the Publix puzzle fell into place this week with the land purchase.

___

(c)2017 The Mountaineer (Waynesville, N.C.)

Visit The Mountaineer (Waynesville, N.C.) at themountaineer.villagesoup.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News

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