It’s just a Bojangle’s, but that’s a step up for Waynesville’s South Main

fr bojanglesThe commercial revitalization of South Main Street in Waynesville has taken another step forward this month with the bulldozing of a dilapidated, vacant building to make way for a new Bojangle’s.

The run-down corridor has been gradually transforming into a new commercial hotbed since the addition of a Super Wal-Mart on South Main in 2008. The new Bojangle’s to anchor the intersection of South Main and Allens Creek will add another notch to South Main’s belt.

Town Planner Paul Benson said it will be a marked improvement to South Main’s streetscape. For starters, the windowless concrete building ringed by hostile metal fencing that formerly occupied the site has been bulldozed.

But the site will also bring a new stretch of sidewalk and street trees to South Main. 

“That’s a big problem with South Main right now. It’s just a big sea of asphalt,” Benson said, alluding to the way the area’s parking lots morph into the street, lacking the delineation of a curb.

The town requires new developments to come with sidewalks, curbs, street trees and defined entrances. 

The new Bojangle’s will have some 30 trees ringing its building and parking lot.

“It’s well-landscaped,” Benson said. “It is a step in the right direction.”

The new Bojangle’s is being developed by Thomas Morgan, owner of the Mountain Energy chain of convenience stores, gas stations and fast-food enterprises in the region, under the LLC Mountain Star Development.

The 1.3-acre corner lot was purchased by Morgan earlier this year for $1.5 million. He already had a commitment lined up with Bojangle’s to occupy the site when he bought it.

Bojangle’s will take up about half the lot. The other half is still available for development, and Morgan believes it is just a matter of time until there’s a taker.

“You have great visibility at a very busy intersection,” Morgan said of the corner lot, which is catty-corner to a Shell gas station he also owns.

South Main now has its foot in two worlds. Once the shabby side of town, it had disintegrated into a blight of vacant buildings, closed factories, cracked pavement and weed-strewn parking lots. The streetscape is now dotted with the intermittent arrival of new storefronts.

Benson credits the town’s land-use plan for requiring a modicum of aesthetics from new commercial developments — including better-than-average architecture, attractive landscaping, sidewalks and street trees, and low-profile signs.

Morgan said he did not find the town’s land-use plan overly arduous.

“The town was very reasonable to work with,” Morgan said.

When the town first passed the architectural and landscaping criteria in 2003, critics feared it would stifle development — in particular turning off chain stores unwilling to deviate from their low-cost, cookie-cutter designs.

But Benson said so many towns now have appearance standards, fast-food chains have stepped-up versions in their repertoire of building designs, ready to deploy when needed. The new Bojangle’s will have an all-brick façade, for example.

Morgan said the redevelopment is a win-win for the community.

“You are getting modern improvements and the things the town wants, like sidewalks and landscaping, and a bigger tax base,” Morgan said.

Morgan believes more growth is in store for South Main.

“Businesses will come where they think there are opportunities for them,” Morgan said. “If you locate around a Wal-Mart you are going to have access to those customers as well.”

Redevelopment of South Main did not manifest as quickly as initially expected following Super Wal-Mart’s arrival in 2008, however. New commercial enterprises were predicted to spring up quickly around the retail magnet, but it stalled during the economic fallout of the recession.

That’s changed in the past two years, with a flurry of development activity, including: Belk’s, Michael’s craft store, Pet Smart, Rack Room shoe store, a Waynesville ABC store, Taco Bell, Mattress Firm and the construction of a new building by Old Town Bank.

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