The developer of a $50 million upscale mixed-use development is ready to put its plan in motion, about two and a half years after the town’s board of commissioners approved a rezoning petition for the project.
Monday, the town announced that Kenney Development will proceed with the development on 50 acres at the intersection of N.C. 55, also known as North Broad Street, and Old Powell Road.
The tentatively named Powell Square, as presented to the town in Kenney Development’s 2014 purchase agreement, will have about 265 luxury apartments on 28 acres. They will be centered around 75,000 to 100,000 square feet of retail and office space on the remaining 22 acres. Jim Seymour, the town’s director of economic development, said it ideally will be anchored by an upscale grocery store.
The firm told town staff in early March it is ready to begin the design and permitting process, according to a news release from the town.
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Seymour said a two-and-a-half year wait is not unusual for these kinds of projects.
Steve Kenney, president and CEO of Raleigh-based Kenney Development, agreed, saying his company has a variety of projects in progress around the Southeast that have consumed most of his time since 2013, when the rezoning petition was approved.
The town approved his purchase of the lot, which once housed wiring manufacturing company Quality Cable, in September 2014, but the company generally doesn’t immediately begin work on a project after approval, he said.
“We have land in at least three or four places right now that we own that we’re sitting on with plans,” Kenney said.
The 2014 development agreement gave the developers 36 months from that date to begin construction.
The first steps after the recent announcement will include scoping out off-site improvements, which likely will involve road-widening and adding turn lanes on N.C. 55. Seymour estimated construction plans would be submitted to town staff in the “next several months.” Once the permitting process is complete, Kenney said, construction should take about a year and a half.
Mayor pro tem Blake Massengill, who is in the contracting business, said this was one of the first projects the town approved when the building economy “considered turning around.”
“I believe this is the first large-scale commercial project that we’ve had in a few years,” he said. “What’s exciting about this to me is that it’s at the entrance to our town.”
Seymour said bringing attractive developments to the town’s gateways has been a focal point of his office’s development strategy as it tries to compete with towns like Garner and Holly Springs.
“Sometimes you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” he said. “This has high visibility for both the apartments and the commercial. We’ve been trying to attract that higher-end grocery store – Wegmans, Publix, Lowes Foods, Whole Foods. We currently don’t have anything in that market.”
Kenney said he envisions the development’s residential side attracting younger professionals working in Research Triangle Park, which is accessible via the N.C. 55 corridor.
Fuquay-Varina’s growth has been notable, even in fast-growing Wake County, and it has accelerated in the past couple of years.
On April 19, Town Manager Adam Mitchell told commissioners that the number of building permits issued so far in 2016 is 29 percent above the same figure this time in 2015. Last year’s total, he said, was a high-water mark for building permits at 61 percent above the 2014 figure.
Kenney said he first considered building in Fuquay-Varina in the early 2000s, but found “it wasn’t ready then.” Growth since that time has contributed to his desire to develop in the area, he said. He also praised Fuquay-Varina’s staff for their friendly attitude toward developers.
“Working with the town has been a real pleasure,” Kenney said. “Guys like me pay attention to that. We want to go somewhere people want us.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan