Developer planning 379-acre industrial park on Long Ferry Road

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 3, 2022

SALISBURY — Jacqui Smith Watson knew it was only a matter of time before another major development came to Long Ferry Road in northeast Rowan County.

“Our exit is one of the last exits they haven’t built something this huge at,” Watson said. “I knew it was coming.”

She was still shocked several weeks ago when she learned of the magnitude of a project currently being planned by Red Rock Developments.

The company, which is based in Columbia, South Carolina, and has a regional office in Charlotte, plans to develop a 379-acre industrial park with 2.65 million square feet of commercial space spread across six buildings. The industrial park will be located about a mile off I-85 at exit 81, not far from Chewy’s e-commerce fulfillment center.

Plans for the industrial park show six buildings of varying sizes spread across almost 400 acres. The largest building in the park would be significantly larger than Chewy’s nearby fulfillment center. Images of rendering courtesy of Jacqui Smith Watson.

The largest building in the park will be almost 1.2 million square feet alone, considerably larger than Chewy’s 700,000 square foot facility. The other five buildings range in size from 168,480 square feet to 572,113 square feet, according to a site plan.

The second-largest building will be constructed north of Long Ferry Road while the rest will be south of the road. In addition to several water retention ponds and interior access roads, site plans call for 1,149 parking spaces and 723 trailer spaces. The buildings will be built speculatively, which typically means the developer will try to attract a tenant during or shortly after construction.

Red Rock Developments showcased plans to nearby residents at a community meeting held at Millers Ferry Fire Department Tuesday evening.

Watson, a longtime Long Ferry Road resident, attended the gathering after hearing about the potential development on a Facebook group several weeks prior. She said the meeting was well attended and that residents were engaged. Most people were concerned about traffic on Long Ferry Road. Rowan County Commissioners Chair Greg Edds, who also attended the meeting, shared a similar assessment.

“The biggest issue asked among everybody, whether they supported it or didn’t, was the issue of traffic,” Edds said. “We’ve dealt with that to some extent with the Chewy project. That’s a question that everyone had, even if you were very enthusiastic about the project.”

Edds added most residents seemed to be supportive of plans for the industrial park.

Watson said there is already a law enforcement officer stationed near the I-85 interchange to help direct traffic around 5 p.m. everyday. In addition to Chewy, two gas stations at the exit draw traffic.

Due to the amount of additional traffic the industrial park would bring to Long Ferry Road, Red Rock Developments initiated a traffic impact analysis and generated recommendations to improve the road accordingly. Those recommendations were reviewed and approved by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Recommendations include adding turn lanes at access points to the industrial park along Long Ferry Road, but they do not include any new travel lanes to the two-lane road. There will be about nine access points to different portions of the industrial park.

The majority of road improvements will happen near the I-85 interchange, according to NCDOT District Engineer Kelly Seitz.

Seitz said a traffic signal will be put at the southbound and northbound ramps at exit 81. Another signal will be added at the service road leading to Chewy.

Edds said Rowan County will conduct a corridor study on Long Ferry Road to examine the road extending past the proposed industrial park.

Besides traffic, Watson doesn’t have many concerns about the facility.

“I would hope it would increase property values and not inconvenience too many people with the traffic coming in and out of that project,” Watson said.

Rick Mahaley, who lives on Long Ferry Road across from what is being called “building E,” also said he didn’t have any major concerns besides traffic.

“I’m definitely not put out or upset, other than it’s going to ruin my view and change what I’ve been used to,” Mahaley said.

Mahaley said he might have concerns about light or noise pollution, depending on what type of companies end up inhabiting the buildings in the industrial park. Progress is inevitable, Mahaley said, and people generally have the right to do what they want with their land.

Now that Red Rock Developments has hosted a community meeting, the company is primed to move forward with its plans. One of the next steps will be to rezone the parcels that comprise the park. Edds said county government is working with the company to determine the best way to do that and  the two entities have been in frequent communication.

“They’re one of the best groups we’ve ever dealt with,” Edds said.

The industrial park would be connected to the county’s northeast water system, but sewer lines would need to be extended from Chewy’s facility. A separate water line also would need to be added for fire safety.

Edds said bringing economic development to Long Ferry Road has been on his mind since he was elected as a commissioner almost a decade ago.

“I’ve always been excited about the possibility of something happening out there,” Edds said.

He’s bullish on what the industrial park would mean for Rowan County.

“Just the value of the shell of these buildings approaches about $200 million,” Edds said. “But what we see when companies come along, if you look at some of the other projects we’re looking at, the equipment that goes in there is oftentimes a much higher investment than what the building itself is even. We could safely say that you could probably double that amount in total investment.”

Edds said he’s also excited about the number of jobs the park would create, which he expects to be more than 1,000.

“That continues to raise the boats because they have to compete for workers and it raises everybody’s boat,” Edds said.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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