McCandless planners get first glimpse of proposed mixed-use development on former Trader Horn site

October 4, 2018

This rendering of the 23-acre site along Blazier Drive in McCandless shows a development built around a “green” central town square surrounded by a mix of retail shops, cottages and a three-story main building dedicated to senior housing. Initial plans for the project were unveiled to the town planning commission on Oct. 2, 2018.

McCandless officials got their first glimpse Tuesday of a residential and retail development being proposed for the land off McKnight Road where the former Trader Horn store was located.

Representatives from Columbus, Ohio, based Continental Real Estate presented the town planning commission with sketches of the project it wants to build on the 23-acre site along Blazier Drive, which has been mostly vacant since Trader Horn shut its store down in November 2014 after 22 years.

The property is where Wal-Mart wanted to build a supercenter several years ago.

Initial plans for the so-called “mixed use” project indicate that it will contain a central green space surrounded by a mix of retail shops, cottages and a three-story main building dedicated to senior housing.

Continental, which built the Waterfront shopping center in Homestead, is teaming up with the Selma, N.C., based AdVenture Development, which did the the McCandless Crossing shopping center.

The Oct. 2 presentation was not a formal application to proceed with the project, said Bruce Betty, the town’s planning and zoning director.

“This was an opportunity for them to present the project and begin gathering input from the planning commission members and residents,” Betty said. “They may make some changes and come back and present them before submitting a formal site plan.”

The mixed-use approach to development was used for McCandless Crossing and is a popular trend that can help improve a project’s chances for success because it is attractive for both older and younger people looking for homes that are within walking distance of retail shops, according to Kevin Dougherty of AdVenture Development.

One major hurdle the developer must overcome is a change to the property’s zoning, Betty said.

“The property is currently zoned for residential and commercial development, but it does not allow assisted living facilities,” Betty said. “That language of the ordinance would have to be changed by council for this type of project to proceed.”

If council agrees to change the ordinance, the developer can submit a formal site plan to the planning commission that will contain details such as the the number, location and size of buildings on the property; the location and amount of parking; outdoor lighting; systems to control stormwater runoff; landscaping; and sidewalks.

Once a site plan is submitted, it is reviewed by the planning commission, which votes on whether or not to recommend that town council OK the project.

The proposed development does not include the 26.72-acre property along Blazier where the vacant Rave Cinema building is located.

But Betty said the developers are looking into purchasing the land, which is a flood zone, so that it can add to the green space surrounding the project. Additional property off Ingomar Road behind the proposed development also might be added as green space.

“As it stands now, the project proposes about 50 percent green space, which is very good,” he said. “So anything they add beyond that would be a bonus.”

The proposal calls for a “green” town square that can serve as a public meeting place as well a trail running through the development.

In 2015, McCandless tried to buy the Rave Cinema site to turn it into a natural wetlands park. But town officials said the cost of obtaining the land and tearing down the theater were too expensive.

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