Alamance County is in middle of “logistical hub” for the Southeast, in eyes of developer who’s building the two new warehouses – and another in Whitsett
Alamance County’s reputation as a hub for regional distribution centers could be getting two more shots in the arm – as plans for two large warehouse facilities are on Graham’s planning board agenda for Tuesday night.
The projects involve about 125 acres along the south side of Cherry Lane at its intersection with Gov. Scott Farm Road, on what might be considered the “back side” of the Hawfields-area industrial park.
So far, all of the existing operations – for Walmart, Lidl, Amazon, Prescient (which is also a manufacturing site), a still-vacant spec building across from Walmart, and for the future UPS center now under construction – are along Senator Ralph Scott Parkway.
Most of the properties in question along both sides of Sen. Ralph Scott Parkway and the south side of Cherry Lane, including vacant ones nearby, are part of about 1,400 acres that Mebane, Graham, and Alamance County decided in 2012 to designate, informally, for future industrial growth. Formally known as the North Carolina Commerce Park, the area is often informally called the Hawfields-area industrial park. There is no binding obligation for landowners to sell their properties to industrial buyers, but most, thus far, have done so willingly.
The new projects, being planned by the Atlanta-based Intersect Development Group, envision an 825,000- square-foot center on about 82 acres on the southwest corner of Cherry Lane and Gov. Scott Farm Road; another 400,000-square-foot center is being proposed on about 38 acres on the south side of Cherry Lane about 100 yards farther down the road. The buildings would be 50 feet tall.
The larger site includes 295 parking spaces for employees and 324 trailer spaces for tractor trailers on the site. The smaller site has 238 parking spaces with 251 trailer spaces.
Both are designed as “cross-dock” facilities; typically that involves unloading incoming trucks on one side of the building and reloading outbound trucks on the other side.
In an interview with The Alamance News Wednesday afternoon, Scott Brown, the founding partner of Intersect, was enthusiastic about the Cherry Lane projects and about the area’s vitality in general.
“This area,” he said describing the corridor between Winston-Salem and Durham, “will be the logistical hub of the Southeast,” Brown said.
In fact, Brown’s bullish attitude is reflected in his company’s first area project, across the county line in Whitsett, where Intersect is building another huge warehouse facility, with about 475,000 square feet, on Konica Drive beside I-85/40.
Brown said the two Cherry Lane warehouses would be “high quality, Class A” facilities “that should attract quality companies.” He described the Cherry Lane area as “being pseudo-ignored,” compared to the activity thus far centered along Sen. Ralph Scott Parkway.
He said he had “kind of followed other companies who had built (or are building) distribution centers,” listing Walmart, Lidl, UPS, and Amazon. “They’re pretty good neighbors,” he suggested, who will likely draw other equally quality companies to his projects.
Asked whether his company would actually undertake such large multi-million dollar projects without having a tenant “in the wings,” as it were, Brown said he did not have tenants lined up for either Whitsett or Graham. “If you know someone who wants a great building, have them call me,” he told a reporter.
Brown described his company as going to great lengths to “engage and explain” the projects with neighbors who have concerns about the sudden appearance of two industrial projects across from their residential neighborhood.
“We’ve agreed to extra landscaping” with understory trees, he said, in order to shield the buildings from the street (and housing across the street).
During a Zoom call on Monday night with some concerned residents in the Old Fields subdivision, which is directly across from both projects, one resident is said to have asked whether the buffer along Cherry Lane could be a berm, in order to strengthen the barrier between the warehouses and the road, rather than the 50-foot buffer in the plans (a 50-foot buffer is the city’s standard requirement for buffering in industrial projects).
“I’m fine with a berm,” Brown said in the interview with the newspaper, emphasizing that he and his company want to find a way to make reasonable accommodations for residents.
At the same time, he also noted that the trend is that more and more areas are going to see industrial and residential development in increasingly close proximity to one another.
The project’s proximity to residential development is also underscored by the current construction on the western border with warehouse property of a 175-house single-family subdivision, Cherry Creek, on 71 acres. Meritage Homes is building the development, which is slated to have homes ranging from 1,400 to 2,900 square feet.
Read about plans for the residential subdivision where construction has started and which may now end up next to one of the warehouses: https://alamancenews.com/newest-meritage-homes-subdivision-in-graham-to-target-first-time-homebuyers/
Brown was not as sympathetic to neighbors’ concerns about traffic, and especially about their preference for avoiding tractor trailer truck traffic along the stretch of Cherry Lane from Gov. Scott Farm Road to Jimmie Kerr Road.
The Alamance News questioned N.C. DOT’s division engineer about some of the traffic concerns and specifically whether tractor trailers are now, and would be in the future, allowed on these two-lane roads (such as Cherry Lane, Jimmie Kerr).
Chuck Edwards, the division engineer for Alamance County and immediately surrounding areas, emphasized in an interview with the newspaper that Cherry Lane “currently has no specific limitations” on what kind of vehicles may use the roadway. Indeed, Edwards emphasized, both Cherry Lane and Jimmie Kerr Road, as well as any other state-maintained road, are required “to be open to all legal traffic.”
Because it is a state road, only DOT may make changes – in limiting truck traffic, for instance, which Edwards stressed would be very rare and unlikely; local city councils may not.
In terms of previous suggestions, statements, or promises that tractor trailers would not traverse Cherry Lane – as the newspaper’s reporter and another source recalled – Edwards insisted it would have been unenforceable.
As to whether trucks should head west on Cherry Lane (and go to either Jimmie Kerr Road or NC 54) or east (and turn on Trollingwood Road and then Trollingwood-Hawfields Road) to get to I-85/40, he stressed that was not within DOT’s regulatory purview.
For his part, Brown said his company had made the commitment to “do whatever” was recommended by a traffic study undertaken for evaluating the projects and “whatever is required” by DOT.
While doing so may “open yourself to unknown costs,” Brown said he wanted to do whatever was necessary to make the operations at the two sites work smoothly. He used acceleration lanes and deceleration lanes as examples. Edwards used the term turn lanes.
Edwards also emphasized that the Cherry Lane projects are still “under review” by the DOT. There has been no final determination on what will be required, he said, and he was unaware that Graham’s planning board was scheduled to consider the projects Monday night.
There is “no predetermined conclusion” about what may be the review’s final findings or recommendations, Edwards emphasized, or what the “mitigation factors, if any are needed, will be.”
He listed turn lanes and strengthening (i.e., deepening) the pavement on a state road as possibilities in connection with some typical industrial projects.
Edwards acknowledged that Cherry Lane is one of three additional Alamance County interchanges that are listed as possibilities in the very long-term plans for the DOT, defining long-term as 25-year plans. The others are at Tucker Street in Burlington and Mattress Factory Road in Mebane.
While neighbors have said that they would prefer residential development across the street, the preliminary findings of its city planner list that possibility as improbable and the city’s long-term plan envisions industrial development as a part of the North Carolina Commerce Park.
In a preliminary report that is to be presented to the planning board on Monday, the city’s planning director, Justin Snyder, concludes: “Because this district is currently developing with more industrial than residential, staff sees the potential and likelihood that most, if not all, of the available land will develop as industrial, despite the fact that Old Fields was approved many years ago. The patterns simply do not support the notion that residential is the best use for these properties.”
Meanwhile, this week, the city council agreed to put on the council’s January 11 agenda Intersect’s request to annex the Cherry Lane properties – almost 125 acres in total – into the city, a prerequisite for potential rezoning.
OTHER RECENT DEVELOPMENT NEWS (almost always first, and more comprehensive than any other source):
Another large warehouse project, by a different developer, was approved recently in Mebane: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-oks-1m-square-foot-warehouse-project-along-buckhorn-road/
UPS is building a distribution center at the other end of the Hawfields-area industrial park: https://alamancenews.com/clearing-grading-begins-on-future-ups-site/
And Amazon recently opened its facility nearby, also on the Graham side of the Hawfields-area industrial park: https://alamancenews.com/amazon-center-now-open/