Growth comes to West Waynesville
The opening of several new businesses on South Main Street this month will mark the beginning of long-awaited growth in West Waynesville.
PetSmart celebrated a quiet early September opening and will soon have Belk, Rack Room Shoes and Michael’s as neighbors in Waynesville Commons, the development built where the long-closed Dayco Plant used to employ 2,000 or so.
Across the street, Old Town Bank recently started construction on its new two-story, 9,000 square foot building. And plans are in the works to build a new ABC store near Hardee's.
It’s all part of a long term vision town leaders have been working toward since Super Walmart became the first tenant in 2008.
Home Depot was originally planning to fill the vacant area alongside Super Walmart, but a hard-hitting recession foiled those plans, said Mark Clasby, executive director of the Haywood County Economic Development Committee.
Now that the economy is "slowly going in the right direction," Clasby said more growth could be on the way.
The town's land development standards have added to the aesthetic appeal of the plaza, which completed the overall goal of transforming the Dayco site into a more attractive business district.
"It certainly makes it an appealing center. It's not just your run-of-the-mill looking shopping center, which I think is important," he said.
With the land development standards in place, that vision will carry over to the rest of South Main Street.
“Personally, seeing that part of the original vision is exciting and I think that’s going to certainly move on into the surrounding areas. The land use plan will help drive that in the right way,” Clasby said.
Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown says developing and improving the aesthetic of South Main Street is important because it is one of the main entrances to town.
Having land development standards in place has played a major role in setting the tone for what is in store for the rest of South Main Street, he said.
"It encourages smart growth. It could have grown in a whole lot of different ways. I think land design standards offer a much better long term effect on the community in terms of public transit and walkability," Brown said.
With the advent of new businesses, "the rest of that area will be dramatically changed," Brown said.
Business growth in West Waynesville could be the catalyst for the widening of U.S. Highway 23, a project NCDOT has failed to fund for years despite yearly requests from the town board.
“That’s been our number one request since I’ve been here, so that’s nine years,” said Town Planner Paul Benson.
Widening the road was one suggestion from an extensive feasibility study the town conducted through an Asheville-based company to research ways to make South Main Street more inviting and pedestrian friendly.
More business will mean more traffic on the road, which could put pressure on NCDOT to recognize the need to fund the project, Benson said.
More than anything, town leaders want to see South Main Street as a vibrant and thriving gateway to downtown Waynesville.
Brown said he is happy with the growth in West Waynesville and is optimistic about the future.
"It's an indication of bigger and better things to come," he said.
Rack Room Shoes, currently located in the Kmart plaza off Russ Avenue will be shutting its doors Oct. 7 and officially opening at the "bigger, brighter" location beside Michael's Oct. 10, said Rack Room Marketing Manager Brenda Christmon.
Michael's is opening Oct. 11 for a "friends and family night," offering a 15 percent discount to all customers. A soft opening is planned for Oct. 12 and the grand opening is Oct. 13.
The store is hiring about 107 people for various positions including cashiers, customer service representatives, custom framers and stocking associates, said Jean Fernandez, operations manager for Michael's. They also need instructors for cake decorating and craft classes.
Fernandez said she is looking for people who are "energetic, great with customer service and have a familiarity with crafts."
Belk will hold its grand re-opening festivities on Oct. 10, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.