New Bern, NC – Lifestyle living and upscale shopping is being touted as a way to energize the eastern North Carolina economy in a major announcement made this week. The project, called Craven Thirty is in the construction phase now northeast of New Bern near the intersection of Highway 70 and SR-43. City Manager Mike Epperson says the site will be a prime location for restaurants, retail businesses, medical offices, and residential areas.
"The initial phase is about 500 acres that will include everything from residential to light industrial to retail development all in one cohesive concept."
Craven Thirty will also have a state of the art cinema, and community bike trails. The 550 acre tract of land will be divided into residential and business areas.
"They've got about 20 acres carved out for restaurants, about 42 acres for apartment living, about 10 acres for hotels, about 40 acres for large retail sites, about 75 acres for smaller retail and about 200 acres for light industrial use."
Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development says it's partnering with Fletcher Bright Company out of Chattanooga, TN to complete the construction. Epperson says Weyerhaeuser has built other smaller residential areas in New Bern.
"They've done a couple of golf course communities, Greenbrier, Taberna, Carolina Colours those are all initially Weyerhaeuser developments."
Gov. Beverly Perdue was a guest speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday morning at 10. The Governor spoke on the unique attributes of the project.
"it sends a strong message to me as someone who believes in shopping at home, eating at home, and staying at home.This is really exciting for Craven County. We have so long needed an investment in retail combined with leisure and recreation, dining and living."
There is speculation on local websites that a Bass Pro Shop may be looking to locate here, but Craven Thirty planners are not releasing any names of possible businesses. Market studies by Realty Development Research, a nationally recognized retail research company, found that New Bern's trade area loses as much as $200 million in retail sales annually, due to lack of shopping and dining opportunities.
"There is a lot of Craven County residents, New Bern residents who are leaving the area to do their shopping. So I think one of the primary purposes for the retail side is to keep that market here and from a city managers perspective, that's important."
Gov. Perdue said during her presentation some people travel as far as Raleigh to go shopping.Every year, there are approximately 2.5 million visitors to the New Bern area, more than half are traveling to beach destinations. Epperson says Craven Thirty's close proximity to Highway 70 will make the location ideal for attracting tourists that are passing through.
"The exciting thing about Craven Thirty for the city of New Bern is that it really becomes the western boundary, what the city's footprint is and becomes the front door or the entrance into the city for a lot of people who travel Highway 70."
Construction at the site has already begun. Workers have started clearing roads along with water and sewer line construction. The next step is implementing transportation systems, which includes burying electrical lines underneath the road and selecting retailers to populate the 75-acres designated for that in the Craven Thirty community. While completion of the project is years or maybe even decades away, Epperson says buildings might start to appear as early as 2013. Jared Brumbaugh, Public Radio East.