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Massive grocery store, shops, restaurants coming to growing area

Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 8:26 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A neighborhood retail center is coming to a fast-growing area of Wilmington, bringing shops, restaurants, and a massive Harris Teeter closer to thousands of consumers.

Work on the Crossroads at Independence, located at the corner of Independence Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road, started in November and is expected to finish by April of next year.

The center will be less than two miles from the 1,400-acre Riverlights community, which has 600 homes already and plans for 2,000 more. It’s also next to the redeveloped Echo Farms and right down the road from the Pointe at Barclay.

“One mile from there, there’s 8,000 people,” said Kathy Merlo, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Executive who lives in the Riverlights community. “Three miles — it’s 51,000 people approximately. And, within a five-mile-radius, it’s 125,000 people. And, we’re still growing in leaps and bounds.”

Developer Dean Scarafoni, president of Live Oak Development, said the location was just a logical place for the center. He also added that Harris Teeter has wanted to be in that area for some time.

“Right now, in the grocery industry, a lot of investment has been in technology and delivery, not so much opening new stores,” he said. “The fact that Teeter is opening this store, and it’s a large format store, speaks to the location.”

And it’s not just any Harris Teeter — it will be the largest Harris Teeter in southeastern North Carolina. Scarafoni said it’s expected to be between 70,000 and 80,000 square feet, depending on if you count the mezzanine. That’s almost a football field and a half in size.

“It’s just a quality neighborhood retail center with a premium name anchor,” said Scarafoni. “We’re not really reinventing the wheel; we just have a great anchor tenant.”

The Harris Teeter will have a bar with a large wine selection, drive-thru pharmacy, Starbucks, and more.

“I think the biggest feature is they’re going to offer people a place not just to shop, but also to relax and hang out,” said Scarafoni.

Merlo said she passes the site multiple times a day and is excited not only for the variety of everything in the store, but also the walkability from River Lights.

“Everyone loves walkability so people could technically walk to Harris Teeter if they wanted to or just take a short bike ride,” she said. “You know, a lot of residents are hoping they can take their golf carts, like they can here, to have dinner and drinks.”

The Crossroads at Independence will also have two outparcels — one of which is already spoken for — and two to three multi-tenant buildings, according to Scarafoni. He said they are ahead of schedule and already halfway committed with the multi-tenant buildings. He said it’s still too early to disclose who those tenants will be.

Restaurant uptake has been a little slow. Only one restaurant has committed so far, even though several are incorporated in the plans. Scarafoni attributes this to the pandemic.

“Restaurants, with what they’re going through right now, they’re just not ready to make those commitments,” he said. “They’re kind of in survival mode and as COVID ends, I think we’ll be a little more aggressive in talking with some quality restaurant operators.”

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