Garner’s 2014 resolution: Grow

kjahner@newsobserver.comDecember 31, 2013 

— On Jan. 1, 2013, Garner looked a little different than today. A few slabs stuck out of freshly excavated ground where the completed Veterans Memorial now stands. WakeMed also stood only partially built. An apartment complex just south of White Oak Crossing had yet to clear most of the land. Garner High’s new freshman center now looks like a fixed-up abandoned movie theater; last year it was an abandoned movie theater. But not all that much changed, by and large.

As Jan. 1, 2014, dawns, though, the town sits poised to see just how much can change in 12 months -- and beyond. With a laundry list of approved town projects and planned private development, that could be a lot.

“It is exciting. It’s more change than we’ve had in a while,” Mayor Ronnie Williams said. “Change is good.”

Some projects could be finished before the sun sets on 2014; others will remain incomplete hard-hat nests. And they also lend not only the question of what will Garner look like, but whether Garner can handle the growth.

On the public side, the road project at U.S. 70 and I-40 has a target end date of December, 2014. Bond projects will start to break ground as well. The new police station should have the vast majority of work completed in 2014. Sidewalks could also see some construction, and the rec center should move forward in planning.

On the private side, Garner Economic Development Director Tony Beasley said he thinks the brunt of development will occur on the east side of Garner, including White Oak Crossing and in particular south of it. He also said the 401 corridor on the western front will see a share of new activity.

“I think we’re going to see some diverse expenditures based on office, manufacture, retail and residential,” Beasley said. “We’re really excited about where that activity is going to be heading too.”

The U.S. 70 road project will initiate development along White Oak Crossing, Beasley said. The site of a new Cabela’s at Jones Sausage and U.S. 70 will undergo site work in the first half of the year and construction of the superstore in the second half. Tens of millions in development on that north side of U.S. 70 will flow from that according to both Beasley and Core Properties, the land’s developer.

“Once Cabela’s starts, Core (Properties) will make some other announcements about some major restaurants, and I think those are going to start coming out of the ground at the same time,” Beasley said, adding that he expected announcements in the next month.

The 336-unit Adeline at White Oak apartment complex currently under construction should be opened by the end of 2014. And Beasley expects plans on residential development on the south of White Oak to be presented in the next year. Housing units can typically be constructed in five months he said, so some of the new neighborhoods could be complete by New Years 2015. In particular, Beasley said the new schools to be funded by the bonds in southern Garner will drive some of that growth.

“That southeastern quadrant of Garner is where I think you’re going to see most of our developments this year,” Beasley said.

Agri-Supply is mid-construction on its new corporate headquarters across the street of East Garner Middle School on Jones Sausage Raod, just north of White Oak Crossing.

West of the Crossing, Beasley said he has heard about planning for new construction in and around the new WakeMed Healthplex -- which opened in August.

Some U.S. 70 development will occur further west; a Walgreens that recently received approval will be finished by the end of the year.

And Beasley said that, both short and long-term U.S. 401 -- including the part in Garner -- will see major development.

“Traffic continues to grow, and the land costs a little less,” Beasley said. “I think you’re going to start seeing some connectivity on the 401 corridor this year.”

The new Sheetz and Advance Auto Parts near the Ten Ten Road and U.S. 401 intersection could be just the beginning. A Wendy’s is planned for across the Street from Walmart on U.S. 401, and Denny’s is moving into the former Oh Charley’s building. Beasley said a gas station -- he couldn’t announce the location or company -- had plans to start and complete a station on 401 by July.

Beasley views finding a tenant for the ConAgra site as a longer-term process, one that could take 3-5 years. Though he hopes to see some headway in 2014, the first year the town will be actively marketing the site to companies, high-tech manufacturing and bio-tech companies in particular.

Potential growing pains

Some residents in Garner have in the past expressed worries of the town growing too fast. Beasley said there’s no reason to worry – mostly, and for now.

“I think it’s going to be good for Garner,” Beasley said. “I don’t see any major issues in the next year or two.”

Beasley did say that residents may feel otherwise: the “Fortify Forty” project could clog U.S. 70 with traffic avoiding I-40 the next few years. The highway project formerly known as “Crawleigh” could play head games with diverted traffic juxtaposed with sprouting commercial development.

“At that point it might feel like there are growing pains, but really it’s just people trying to find a way to get to downtown Raleigh to work or find another way to Cary,” Beasley said.

He said some of the long-term growth could necessitate new infrastructure such as new or expanded roads in the southern, less developed parts of town, but that level of growth would be a few years away – likely not until the new schools began to be opened.


Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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