Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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Strip center in west Burlington could be open by March

A new commercial development has begun to take shape around a still-vacant lot at the corner of South Church Street and Westbrook Avenue that has previously been designated for a new Hursey’s Bar-B-Q restaurant.

Although workers have yet to break ground on the new eatery itself, construction is well underway on two other buildings that were originally part of the same commercial project as the proposed Hursey’s location.

The figurative groundwork for these peripheral structures was laid shortly after Hursey’s closed on a 3.9-acre tract at the northwest corner of South Church Street’s intersection with Westbrook Avenue. Once the restaurant chain had firmed up the transaction in December of last year, it proceeded to subdivide the property by parceling off the 1.14 acres that overlooks the intersection to serve as the future home of its proposed eatery.

In April of this year, Hursey’s sold the remaining 2.78 acres for $1 million to an Elon-based limited liability corporation called Westbrook Center, LLC. The office of North Carolina’s state secretary of state identifies the registered agent for this corporation as David M. Morton, who is also a co-owner of Burlington’s Holly Hill Mall.

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The new property owner has gone on to obtain several construction permits from Burlington’s inspections department. Two of the permits were issued on September 10 and October 19 for a pair of shell buildings to be erected by Larry Shambley Construction at 3729 South Church Street. According to the city’s inspections department, another permit for a shell building by Larry Shambley at 3735 South Church Street has been ready to issue since November 25.

In an interview last week, Morton told The Alamance News that he has already signed a number of tenants for the new shopping center, which he added is on track to open in March.

Morton said that he already has commitments for at least seven of the 21 bays in the two buildings. However, he said that none of the future tenants wants to be revealed just yet. Among those planning to open, Morton described, are: a jewelry store, a Japanese restaurant; two salons, one for hair, one for nails; and three offices, for a doctor, dentist, and real estate firm.

The three permits which have so far been authorized for this development concern work on land owned by Westbrook Center, LLC. At this point, the city’s inspections department doesn’t seem to have any permits on file related to the Hursey’s property, which bears a physical address of 3725 South Church Street. This parcel, which has been set aside for what would be Hursey’s fifth location, is situated just down the road from the chain’s flagship restaurant at South Church Street’s juncture with Alamance Road.

The prospective site of this restaurant was originally part of a parcel that VantageSouth Bank acquired in 2005 to serve as the home for one of its two inaugural branches. The Burlington-based bank went on to set up a large modular unit on the property which it intended to upgrade until it was bought out several years later.

The property sat more or less idle until the fall of 2018 when Hursey’s began to envision it as the future site of a new commercial center that would be anchored by one of its restaurants. In the following summer, the Burlington-based restaurant chain sent sketches to the city’s planning department for a development with three buildings whose footprints ranged in size from 4,800 to 19,200 square feet. These plans gave the place of honor at the corner of the parcel to the smallest of the three structures, which was tentatively set aside for a new Hursey’s location.

Chuck Hursey, a grandson of the chain’s founder, told The Alamance News in 2019 that the new eatery wouldn’t necessarily replace the chain’s eatery at South Church Street and Alamance Road. Although the fate of the existing restaurant hangs on a plan to realign and widen Alamance Road, Hursey insisted that the proposed eatery at the corner of Westbrook would be primarily intended to grab a bite of the growing market in west Burlington and Elon.
Hursey and his colleagues moved one step closer to consummating their plans just over a year ago when Burlington’s city council agreed to rezone the 3.9-acre parcel from office and institutional to conditional business use. Hursey’s had requested this new designation in order to follow through with its plans for the aforementioned commercial development.

As part of its request to the council, the restaurant chain had submitted a conceptual plan that depicted the same, three footprints which had been featured in the earlier sketches of the development. Hursey’s also placed several self-imposed conditions on the future use of these buildings. One stipulation prohibited any restaurant within a 6,000-square-foot structure that the plan envisioned next to the chain’s own 4,800-square-foot eatery. Another condition limited restaurant uses within the largest of the three buildings to 7,200 of its 19,200 square feet.

Within two weeks of the council’s decision, Hursey’s closed on the purchase of the 3.9-acre parcel. Documents filed with Alamance County’s register of deeds indicate that the chain paid $1.3 million to acquire the property on December 13, 2019.

Since the approval of Hursey’s rezoning request, the city’s planning department has signed off on a modified site plan for the newly subdivided 3.9 acres. One of the most significant changes in the revised site plan is a reduction in the footprint for Hursey’s, which has been pared back from 4,800 to 3,900 square feet. This tweak was apparently made to accommodate a drive-thru – or a “pig-up window” in the idiosyncratic parlance of the restaurant chain.

Morton said in an interview last Monday that because of professional and personal relationships with the Hurseys, he has voluntarily agreed to limit the number of restaurants in the part of the center he’s bought to one. As noted above, that is a Japanese restaurant. Morton added that he’d had five that wanted to locate in the new strip center.

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