Construction underway at Heritage Corner: 'National tenants want to be in Wilson'

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Officials spent 2019 planning to transform the southwest corner of Raleigh Road Parkway’s intersection with Airport Boulevard. Now construction crews are hard at work to bring the plans for new residential and retail development to life.

“I’d say you’ll see some major changes in the next 60 to 90 days,” said engineer Ron Sutton with Herring Sutton & Associates. “First thing we’ve got to get out of the way is putting the infrastructure — the stormwater, sewer and entrance roadway — in place.”

Woodhaven Development Group partner Adam Bickley said recruitment is going well for tenants in the first phase along Airport Boulevard.

“I’ve probably got six tenants that are interested in the corner lot where the gas station is,” Bickley said. “It is just a matter of dialing in on which will make the most sense for the community and the development.”

Once both phases are complete, the Heritage Corner shopping center will include more than 170,000 square feet of retail and restaurant spaces on 23 acres.

“National tenants want to be in Wilson and fortunately, the property we have under contract is very desirable,” Bickley said. “It is on the corner of a major thoroughfare through town and is part of the retail business district of Wilson. If you look at the growth patterns, there is no other way for Wilson to grow than out that way.”

Nearly a year ago, Windjam Properties announced plans to build roughly 250 single-family homes and townhomes around the shopping center, but general counsel Jennifer D. Scott said the fall approval of Evolve at Heritage apartments to the northwest has sent developers back to the drawing board.

“The acquisition itself is under an extension agreement right now,” Scott said. “An apartment complex was approved on our backside, which changed the dynamic of the product we were committed to, so we’re back in the mix of looking for the right builder and design features.”

Initially, Windjam Properties owner Rex B. Vick said the houses would be under $300,000, but Scott said the size of the homes is being reevaluated, which would affect the sales price as well.

“Our understanding from Wilson was the apartment rental market was enough and the appetite was for nicer or different types of development, which is what we try to deliver,” Scott said. “The changing dynamics with the apartment complex on our backside has made us reevaluate the product.”

Rodger Lentz, Wilson chief planning and development officer, said he doesn’t recall staff describing Wilson’s apartment market to the house developers.

“What we try and do is direct where various land uses are placed to facilitate logical development within the city,” he said. “The adopted 2010 comprehensive plan calls for this area to be a mixed-use activity center or mixed-use commercial. As defined in the comprehensive plan, these areas are for a mixture of housing types including high-density or multi-family residential, commercial and office uses designed in a connected, pedestrian-friendly design.”

He added that a road is required to connect the apartment complex, housing development and the commercial center to try to pull local traffic from the major thoroughfares and reduce congestion.

Sutton said the larger commercial tenants and large parking lot in the shopping center are part of Heritage Corner’s second phase. He anticipated the first phase of infrastructure to be complete by June and tenants opening in outparcels in the next 12 months.

“We’ve been in and around Wilson for a while now. I’ve always loved the city myself and it is easy to see potential for growth in Wilson,” Bickley said. “We’re excited to be a part of that and make the community better by providing new businesses.”