A major expansion of Ingles has been in the planning stages for several years, including a total site redevelopment plan.
Ingles is the kingpin of the busiest corridor in Waynesville — and not just because of its flagship grocery store. Ingles sprawling hilltop site spans more than 25 acres. But the massive tract is currently underutilized commercially.
Smaller storefronts that once shared the Ingles strip mall have moved out and the spaces have remained vacant in light of the impending grocery store expansion. There’s also the vacated Belk department store ready and waiting for a major retailer to come along.
And there’s plenty of free space to build on, including vacant lots along Russ Avenue and the entrance drive. Even the oversized parking lot could sacrifice some real estate and easily accommodate those weekend-before-Thanksgiving and wintery-mix-in-the-forecast grocery rushes.
The redevelopment plans call for a total buildout of all those spare commercial sites. It has been slow to materialize, but is still very much in the cards.
“The project is not on hold and will not be canceled,” said Ron Freeman, Ingles chief financial officer.
The project has myriad moving parts. It not only calls for a major expansion of the grocery store itself — Ingles will go from 60,000 to 90,000 square feet — but includes the buildout of retail space, restaurants and a gas station on the campus.
“We are working through some engineering and architectural matters that affect not just our store, but the entire property,” Freeman said.
Ingles first obtained a conditional-use development plan from the town in early 2011. The site plan has been amended twice since then: once in 2012 and again in 2014.
Both times, the permit was about to expire — it’s only good for two years if construction hasn’t started. So, Ingles had to renew its permit anyway, but in the process, it tweaked the site plan each time.
While the prospect of the first Chick-fil-A west of Asheville may be the chief cause for celebration among some Haywood soccer moms, the most exciting thing to Town Planner Paul Benson is better traffic flow along the congested stretch of Russ Avenue.
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Rather than exacerbate the existing traffic backups around the Ingles intersection, the addition of Chick-fil-A will bring a retooled traffic pattern that will hopefully be more efficient at whisking cars on and off Russ Avenue.
A new entrance drive on the left side of Chick-fil-A will have its own stop light. Instead of Ingles-bound traffic jockeying to turn in at a single entrance, cars coming down Russ will be able to turn at Chick-fil-A and scoot around the back to Ingles, relieving the bottleneck at the lone Ingles intersection now.
While the site plans have been approved by the town on a big picture level, each individual piece of the puzzle — the Chick-fil-A, a gas station, an unnamed restaurant in the far corner of Ingles’ parking lot — will have to get their own development permits from the town when they are ready to build.
The town’s landscaping rules will require a robust compliment of street trees, sidewalks, parking lot tree islands and the like when that time comes. Each piece of the project will also have to meet the town’s architectural review standards.
A timetable isn’t something Ingles is comfortable sharing yet. There are just too many variables to commit to a groundbreaking. But it will happen, eventually.
“We look forward to bringing an updated store to our great customers in Waynesville and Haywood County,” Freeman said.