On Google Maps, the land north of U.S. 70 near Jones Sausage Road appears to be covered in trees.
Google Maps is wrong.
After about 15 years of waiting patiently, the developer of White Oak Crossing has made its second major move near the confluence of U.S. 70 and I-40. The shopping center expansion – and in particular the retail giant that the developer landed to anchor it – could spur a transformation in a town playing economic catchup to other rapidly-growing Raleigh suburbs.
Experts in the region have taken note of a coordinated effort by the town to capitalize on its assets and participate in the region’s economic growth more than ever before after delays brought about by recession and regional competition.
“Garner is on the map now in a way that it has not been in the past,” said Wake County Economic Development executive director Adrienne Cole. “Garner will certainly benefit from the growth of Wake County as a whole, but they’re also positioning themselves to capture some of that growth.”
The first Cabela’s in the state, for example, represents more than just catch-up. Richard Barta, owner of Core Properties, which is developing the site, said White Oak currently draws from an area of about 400,000 people. The main draws – Best Buy, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retail and restaurant outlets – generally can be found throughout the Triangle.
But the outdoors mega-store at White Oak – expected to open in April – puts 3.6 million people in White Oak’s potential market, given the lengths people will drive to the chain. Cole cited similar numbers, and Garner economic development director Tony Beasley said the retail coup exceeded the town’s expectations and has intensified the interest of other businesses looking at White Oak.
A Drury Inn Hotel and a Carolina Ale House have been announced and seven ongoing lease negotiations would fill the northeast quadrant of the U.S. 70 and Jones Sausage Road intersection. Core Properties is also negotiating on some northwest quadrant properites. Planned investment in the two tracts is estimated at $80 million, expanding Garner’s tax base and drawing retail and restaurant jobs.
Core Properties also intends to eventually develop an even larger tract of land, about 300 acres, across White Oak Road from the current shopping center south of U.S. 70.
The investment reflects existing residential growth and heralds more to come for a town situated closer to downtown Raleigh than much of north Raleigh.
Town leaders have worked to market that proximity, major thoroughfares and abundant competitively-priced land, along with all of the education, workforce, technology and climate assets of the Triangle as a whole. And investors are looking at a town working to shake its reputation as a bland, working-class bedroom community with limited amenities.
Retail and residential additions are cropping up on the southern side of White Oak too. Staples is newly opened and Burlington will come shortly.