Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

New connector could clear way for Seventh Avenue shopping center

Developers want the state DOT to approve a connector between Seventh Avenue East and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard so they can put a grocery store and one or more restaurants on the property that now contains two closed businesses.

Developers Rusty Pulliam of Asheville and Jeff Justus of Hendersonville have met with DOT officials about the connection to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and, after working with a councilman who supports the shopping center, will seek an endorsement of the idea from the Hendersonville City Council on Thursday night. 

Councilman Steve Caraker, who has met with the developers on the project, said he has shared information with several council members who he thinks will vote for a letter of support. The road, connecting to U.S. 64, a major state highway, has to be approved by the state Transportation Board.

"They've talked about a grocery store, another drug store and a restaurant but that's not set in stone," Caraker said. The road would come in just east of the closed China Sea buffet, which started as a Ryan's but has since contained a series of buffet restaurants that have failed. While no tenants have been announced, Caraker said the developers have suggested that higher end chains like Red Lobster could locate in the new shopping center.

The developers have optioned the land from the land owners, several sources said, and won't consummate the purchase unless local and state authorities agreed to the connector.

Caraker said he favors the city's endorsement of the road project because it would pead to the redevelopment of a piece of land that is going nowhere otherwise. "If not, you're looking at a dead movie thearter for the next 20 years," he said. A new shopping center that would clean up the eastern end of Seventh Avenue could be a catalyst for redevelopment all the way to downtown Hendersonville, he said.

"I've always envisioned from when I brought up Seventh Avenue when I first ran that the redevelopment would come from the Main Street end, but if this happens this is fine," he said. He said he also expects to get a vote of support from the Historic Seventh Avenue District, which he serves as City Council liaison.

The developer would pay for the road and most of the cost of a traffic signal, Caraker said. The city would take over maintenance of the road once the commercial project was finished.

A sketch submitted to the council shows the road running between the parking lot of the closed Four Seasons Cinema and the closed Chinese Sea restaurant and intersecting with U.S. 64 at a new stoplight. An aerial map shows the shopping center anchored by a supermarket on the eastern-most portion of the land, a drug store in the middle and a restaurant on the western part nearest downtown.

"NCDOT has indicated preliminary support for the proposed access road and new intersection, but has requested that the City of Hendersonville provide a letter indicating their support for the new intersection and access off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard," city manager Bo Ferguson said in a memo to the council. "Such a letter would not be binding on the Council in terms of future land use decisions regarding redevelopment of the property, but would indicate to NCDOT that the Council supports the concept of providing additional access off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to support redevelopment."

The proposed road is east of Cherry Street, which the City Council voted to close several years ago on the recommendation of city police.
The City Council is scheduled to take up the question during its meeting Thursday.

Restaurateur Bob Quattlebaum owns the property west of the proposed shopping center that housed the All Creatures no-kill animal shelter.

"It would help the whole town," said Quattlebaum, the owner of Binion's Roadhouse. "It would certainly improve the entrance into town. It would improve Seventh Avenue. I think it would be good for the whole community."