Demolition of structures at the former Crabtree auto dealership has started to make way for a new shopping center at the 12.5-acre site.
Buildings have been marked with X’s to be knocked down, and some of the necessary equipment was positioned on the property.
A Blakeman family corporate entity, which owns the land, has finalized work with utility companies so the demolition could begin.
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Click below to see photos of the Crabtree demolition:
“We’ll start by taking the buildings down,” James Blakeman said of the project.
Blakeman and his representatives recently appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to go over plans for the parcel on Bridgeport Avenue, at Nells Rock Road. The land also abuts Buddington Road.
“I was jumping up and down when I saw those red X’s there,” P&Z Chairman Ruth Parkins told them, in a reference to the project having been approved but never built.
“I was jumping even higher,” Blakeman responded.
Specifics of project are changing
The specifics are evolving from the original Planned Development District (PDD) approval in 2011, which called for about 130,000 square feet of retail space and 660 parking spaces. The original PDD application drew some opposition.
A follow-up specific site plan hasn’t been approved yet, with the developer receiving extensions on that deadline.
The new idea is to have a large building on the southern side, toward Wal-Mart, and a group of stand-alone smaller buildings, mostly on the northern side near Nells Rock Road. The overall square footage likely would be less than in the original PDD application.
“It’s in the early stages,” said Blakeman, who, with his team, emphasized that a few different concepts may be floated in the coming months.
Supermarket is one possible tenant
A supermarket is expected to occupy much of the large building, with a possible tenant almost lined up. “We’re very close,” James Swift, the project’s engineer, said during his presentation.
Swift said the developer is in discussions with seven tenants for the overall project.
The smaller buildings could be on small land parcels — or what was called “pads” — that are individually owned by companies. The developer’s team said this approach now is favored by many retailers and chain restaurants.
Stephen Bellis, attorney for the project, said they wanted to give the P&Z “a heads-up” on this possible approach.
Swift said having smaller, separate buildings would lead to better circulation in the complex, creating areas for people to walk around.
Tony Panico, the city’s P&Z consultant, said it will be important to have “architectural controls” so there’s consistency in the design of buildings, especially if some should be individually owned.
Bellis said prospective tenant/owners will be told the development is in a PDD, which gives the P&Z more control over specifics such as design than a general zoning approval
The plan calls for one main driveway on Bridgeport Avenue, where a new traffic light would be installed. The developer suggested the idea of a second driveway on Nells Rock Road.
Parkins said she might be open to allowing cars to enter only from this possible second driveway, but the developer would like cars to be able to exit and at least go right, toward Bridgeport Avenue.
Members said right-turn-only exits are routinely disregarded by drivers.
Parkins said she’s concerned the second driveway could greatly increase traffic on Nells Rock Road, a windy and hilly street that might be the most direct route for people in certain neighborhoods.
Swift said the Nells Rock Road exit could be designed so it’s essentially parallel with Nells Rock Road when they intersect, making it almost impossible for a car to go left.
Some blasting will be necessary during construction. A retaining wall would be constructed in the rear, near Buddington Road, which could be up to 12 feet high and have landscaping at the top.
It’s unclear if Blakeman will develop the site himself, or sell it to someone else. About six months ago, Bellis had told the P&Z the property might be sold.