BRUNSWICK, NC (WWAY) — In the next 20 years, Brunswick County is expected to add more than 62,000 people to its population.
With more than 127,000 people and nearly 2,400 construction permits issued in fiscal year 2016, Brunswick County is booming.
“Brunswick County has been the fastest growing county in the state,” Brunswick County Economic and Planning Director Mike Hargett said.
Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams said as more and more people move here, more and more developers are starting to build.
“I think you’re going to see Brunswick County emerge to me as the economic driving force of Southeastern North Carolina,” Williams said.
Brunswick County Economic Development and Planning Director Mike Hargett said they are not only seeing residential growth, but also commercial, and industrial everywhere.
“There are some hot spots, but our tracking information indicates that growth is occurring throughout the county,” Hargett said.
Leland is one of those hot spots.
“On Village Road, where we are trying to create a new downtown, we’ve got the Harrington Village project,” Leland Economic and Community Development Director Gary Vidmar said.
Vidmar said that development will have 300 apartments, and 13 buildings of commercial and retail space.
“Two new retail buildings going up in front of Waterford,” Vidmar said.
Vidmar said that will have space for six to eight more commercial retailers.
“Across the street, the Aldi grocery store is finally going up,” Vidmar said.
Next door, he said a 63-acre plot is under contract between Ploof Road and Oceangate.
“The developer who has that land under contract is continuing to negotiate with some nationally recognized retailers and restaurants,” Vidmar said.
Nearby in front of Walmart, Vidmar said The Westgate Marketplace is being built.
“We have three retail buildings going up,” Vidmar said. “Each of which will have 3 or 4 retail and restaurants.”
There is more retail coming to Brunswick Forest.
“Another retail building that will be comprised of 2 restaurants and another retailer,” Vidmar said.
Vidmar said EmergeOrtho is building an operating room next to New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s office building.
“And another assisted living center in Brunswick Forrest as well,” Vidmar said.
If you do the math, that is more than 50 spaces planned for new retail and restaurants, so we asked some questions about the rumors out there.
“They are talking to one of the developers,” Vidmar said.
“So Panera has been talking to a couple different developers,” Vidmar said. “They’ve been talking to the developers putting up the two buildings in front of Waterford and the Twin Rivers Developer.”
“Publix were looking at some properties about a year ago, but I believe they have curtailed their plans for Leland for now,” Vidmar said.
What about Dunkin’ Donuts and Hibachi Express?
“There are tentative plans for a Dunkin Donuts and Hibachi Express to open in a multi-tenant retail building that will be located next to LIDL on the County property at the corner of Hwy. 17 and Ocean Gate as you enter the Walmart parking lot,” Vidmar said. “However, nothing has been finalized for this project.”
Vidmar said none of these places are finalized.
“The developers won’t disclose any names until there are signed leases and signed contracts,” Vidmar said.
There is one name vidmar can announce.
“Apple Annie’s Bakery,” Vidmar said. “They are going to be opening up in Leland and pairing it with a wine bar.”
Vidmar said in three or four years, Leland is going to be a different town.
“Our hope is that we will create our own shopping environment, restaurant and dining,” Vidmar said.
Leland is not the only town in Brunswick County that is headed for some big change.
“Shallotte has a very aggressive waterfront development,” Hargett said.
Shallotte Mayor Walter Eccard said they hope to start construction on a $75 million Riverwalk at the beginning of next year.
“There’s a brewery that’s negotiating to come to town,” Eccard said.
Red Hare Brewery, based in Atlanta, is proposed for the building where the Coastal Drug Store is right now.
In the long term, Eccard said the town wants to create more walking access.
“Expanding our sidewalks on streets that both feed into Main Street and would connect neighborhoods to downtown,” Eccard said.
There are other hotspots in the county as well.
“St. James,” Williams said. “That area continues to grow and then on the southern end down near Carolina Shores and then up to Ocean Ridge.”
Hargett said Oak Island has also been getting some recent attention.
“The new Midway Commons area is attracting more commercial development,” Hargett said. “They also have the Pineforest Project.”
So what about the big industries?
“We haven’t landed the big one yet, but we won’t ever do it if we don’t keep going for it,” Williams said.
Williams said it is all about the competition.
“We’ve not lost out to other places in North Carolina,” Williams said. “We’ve lost out to other states, so I think some changes will have to be made at the state level for the whole state to really be competitive as far as those big industrial projects.”
In the meantime, Williams said Brunswick County is booming in the right direction.
“I just think we’ve got a great thing going and we just have to keep it going,” Williams said. “You know, we obviously want Brunswick County to be known as the best place to live and work not only in southeastern North Carolina, but in North Carolina period and I think we’ve got all the tools. We’ve just to keep pushing to make it happen.”
While talking to the planners, and the mayors, they also said the same thing when it comes to the challenges of growth. That is traffic, infrastructure, water and sewer. They are all looking at different ways to make sure they are keeping up.
Vidmar said they are doing a study with Duke Energy right now to try to bury the electrical lines in the downtown area they are trying to create on Village Road.