By Jesse Wood
Drive around Watauga County – and, in particular, the eastern U.S. 421 corridor and Blowing Rock Road – and you’ll notice construction activity in full swing this spring.
Along U.S. 421, a number of projects are currently being built: the new Hampton Inn and Suites; Modern Automotive’s new Toyota and Subaru dealerships; and Jackson, Sumner & Associates’ new office. This is on top of projects that weren’t around just a few years ago: Bojangles’ and Bubbles Car Wash, for example.
On Blowing Rock Road in town, more development continues with The Standard of Boone and Winkler Square mixed-use properties and the extensive renovation of the old Ruby Tuesday for a corporate Verizon store and a teardown of the old Long John Silver’s building for a new Krispy Kreme.
In the past few years, Blowing Rock Road has seen a number of new businesses crop up in the county, some of which were featured new construction: Chipotle’s, Waffle House and IHOP, to name a few.
Boone Planning Director Bill Bailey said that he thinks that the town is “booming” in terms of construction happening, but he added that he doesn’t think it equals pre-recession levels.
Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman also offered some anecdotal responses regarding current development and construction trends. With less business development in the county as opposed to the town, his responses were more about housing.
“There are new houses being built, but not in near the pre-recession volume. Total permits are up, though, as there is a significant amount of renovations and additions,” Furman said. “Generally speaking, it seems contractors and subcontractors are busy, though it seems there are fewer of them, with smaller crews, doing smaller jobs than prior to the recession.”
Furman noted that there are no new residential subdivision developments. He mentioned that only three large projects that began before the recession are continuing in some manner: Blue Ridge Mountain Club, Sweetgrass and Echota. He also noted that the Cottages of Boone, which is actually in the county’s jurisdiction, is the last large project to be started and completed in the county.
With that said, here’s a rundown of a number of projects being constructed right now. So if you’ve been driving around wondering what’s going on there, here you go.
New Hampton Inn and Suites on U.S. 421
In April, Poteat Hospitality Associates hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hampton Inn and Suites, located across the street on U.S. 421 from other relatively new establishments Bubbles Car Wash and Bojangles’ restaurant.
The five-story development consists of 113 rooms, 768 square feet of meeting space, an indoor pool, fitness center and outdoor courtyard. A release sent out by Poteat Hospitality Associates notes that this is a $14 million investment.
This brand new hotel is expected to open in the summer of 2016.
The Standard of Boone on Blowing Rock Road
When The Standard of Boone development opens before the fall semester of 2016 – assuming everything moves as scheduled – the stretch of land in between Blowing Rock Road and Faculty Street will look alien to residents of old.
It actually already does with the demolition of the Scottish Inn and the Red Carpet Inn. In addition to daylighting the creek that runs through the middle of the property (which has been estimated to cost $2 million), the Stonegate Developers project includes a five-story building featuring 560 beds with 12,600 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, facing the boulevard.
The project also features a five-level parking deck, estimated to cost $3.6 million.
For the three structures on the property, including the parking deck, the estimated cost written on the construction permit is about $42 million.
Zaxby’s on N.C. 105 Extension
In March, construction crews began work on the one-acre parcel at the corner of N.C. 105 Extension and State Farm Road, the site of the future Zaxby’s restaurant in Boone.
According to plans submitted to the Boone Planning and Inspections department, the 3,652-square-foot building will have 70 seats and a drivethru. The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million.
Developer Jim Lambert said that the goal is to be open by Sept. 1 – if not sooner.
“We are looking forward to getting open,” Lambert said.
Mountainleaf Hotel Development in Downtown Blowing Rock
The controversial hotel development in Blowing Rock is now moving forward after the group, the Concerned Citizens of Blowing Rock, in May, declined to appeal a judge’s ruling that denied them a hearing regarding a permit issued for the development by the Town of Blowing Rock.
The Mountainleaf development, which is located in the downtown area on a vacant seven-acre parcel that borders Chetola Resort, is planned to feature a 112-bedroom hotel; 4,500-square-foot meeting space; 3,500-square-foot restaurant; 5,650-square-foot spa space; 25,400-square-feet of retail space; four cottages featuring 20 units and 25 bedrooms; and 254 parking spaces.
Catellus Group, based out of Charlotte, is the developer. When asked about groundbreaking, opening dates and project costs, Cattleus Group’s Counsel Ben Cassarino said that he “didn’t have any updates at this time.”
The Catellus Group has yet to apply for a permit, so an estimated project cost is not available for public record. Blowing Rock Town Manager said that the developer should be getting with the town within three weeks on the next steps.
Modern Automotive To Open Two New Dealerships
Last summer, Modern Automotive broke ground on more than 12 acres on U.S. 421 in Boone for two new dealership facilities, Modern Toyota and Modern Subaru of Boone.
Both are currently located in other parts of town. The new facility off of U.S. 421 will increase its service and stocking capacity in the following way:
“Service capacity will increase at Toyota from 9 service bays to 19, and Subaru from 8 service bays to 14. Toyota will stock 120-plus new vehicles and Subaru will stock 80-plus,” according a release from the company.
Last year when the project was announced, the estimated completion date was February 2015, which of course as come and gone. A spokesperson for the company didn’t respond to questions regarding when the dealerships will open.
According to the Boone Planning and Inspections department, the project is estimated to cost more than $5.4 million and the square footage of the building to house both dealerships is 61,489 square feet.
Mixed-Use Project Across Street from Hardee’s
Construction is underway as crews build a mixed-use building – consisting of apartments and retail space – at the corner of Clement Street and Blowing Rock Road, directly across the street from Hardee’s in Boone.
According to plans, The Winkler Organization’s project called Winkler Square will consist of 40 units with 42 bedrooms and 7,100 square feet of retail space. Other proposed uses included a recreation facility within the development.
The property, located at 603 Blowing Rock Road, consists of .699 acres, and the proposed building would be 42.5 feet tall. It used to be the former location of Pizza Hut and the old Library Restaurant and Pub before the building was demolished recently to begin construction.
According to the Winkler Organization’s website, the residential areas of this complex is already fully leased for the 2015-16 leasing year, and the company is already accepting applications for the following year.
The project is estimated to cost $2.4 million.
Second Goodwill in Boone
A second Goodwill thrift store is currently being constructed on N.C. 105, adjacent to the old Watauga High School, where Highland Crossing exists.
The project is slated to be completed by December, according to Goodwill spokesperson Jaymie Eichorn.
The building is 11,394 square feet and the project is estimated to cost between $1.5 and $1.6 million.
Still No Word on Old Kmart Property
In June, Piedmont Land Development and Robert Carroll Carver purchased the old Kmart property, which consists of six acres, for nearly $7 million. In the following months, Kmart held an “everything-must-go” sale before shutting down in September.
Since then rumors have swirled around town as to who will fill the location. Boone Planning and Inspections Director Bill Bailey noted that Harris Teeter and Publix had been eyeing the property. But as of the first of June, no company has filed any paperwork or permit applications with the planning and inspections office.