Fuquay-Varina has eyes toward the future with continued growth, development

Posted November 29, 2018 12:28 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2018 5:26 p.m. EST

Building on past planning efforts, the 2035 Community Vision Land Use Plan seeks to implement a vision that preserves the character of Fuquay-Varina while addressing growth in a more explicit way that provides, protects and improves on a high quality-of life for all citizens. (Rendering Courtesy of Town of Fuquay-Varina)

This article was written for our sponsor, Fuquay-Varina.

Over the last 10 years, Fuquay-Varina's population has more than doubled. Once a town where people flocked to receive healing powers from the Fuquay Mineral Spring, it is now a place people gravitate to because of its unique vibe and family-friendly community.

Town events like its annual Freedom Balloon Festival and Halloween Haunt trail paint an idyllic picture.

Fuquay Springs, incorporated in 1909, joined the neighboring community of Varina in 1963 to form one town that has continued to expand and grow. With 30,000 citizens and counting, Fuquay-Varina is working to accommodate its current and future growth trends.

"We've been growing at a rate faster than 8.5 percent," said Adam Mitchell, Fuquay-Varina town manager. "We've cemented ourselves as one of the larger municipalities here in Wake County. We're planning for more and more new development to occur. A lot of it over the last four to five years has been residential development."

Mitchell added, "With new residential development, those rooftops are gaining us more and more looks by commercial and retail businesses. Which is great for our community because that means our residents don't necessarily have to leave Fuquay-Varina to do their shopping. They can do it right here at home."

Mitchell noted the addition of new restaurants, retail businesses and plans for a larger shopping center. He also noted the town's commitment to continuing to develop the downtown districts.

"Not every municipality in Wake County has as an established of a downtown footprint as we do in Fuquay-Varina. We have the Fuquay district and the Varina district downtown," Mitchell explained. "It's a charming atmosphere and one that people like to go and visit. Our downtown has restaurants, breweries and shopping."

In 2014, Fuquay-Varina developed an economic development strategy to create a mixed-use space downtown.

"We have recruited a developer to design and build a large, transformational, mixed-use development project downtown where the first floor will include retail and office uses, and the second, third and fourth floors will include residential apartments," explained Jim Seymour, Fuquay-Varina's economic development director. "The town has worked steadfastly during the last few years to assemble a downtown site capable of attracting a proven mixed-use developer to successfully build this project that has been envisioned by our downtown community for years."

The development location is at the intersection of Main Street and East Academy Street. Fuquay-Varina assembled 10 acres between four property owners and "teed it up" for a developer when the time was right. That time came in late 2017, and the town is now working with a mixed-use developer to iron out the details of a master plan.

"During our pre-development services, market studies confirmed downtown Fuquay-Varina is a destination primed for new mixed-use development where our downtown can immediately support the development of up to 250 market-rate apartments and 20,000 square feet of new retail space," Seymour said. "We expect our mixed-use development project to be upwards of a $40 million capital investment."

Ground is expected to break in the second quarter of 2019. And while Seymour admits this project is a vision of the town board, he said it has been community driven through feedback and input from citizens every step of the way.

The Varina district already has mixed-use space where Aviator Smokehouse is located, with 22 viable apartments for lease. It's a testament that mixed-use space is desirable in the downtown.

"We have gained a lot of momentum since we've announced this project," Seymour said. "There's been greater interest from different members of the development community who are not only interested in learning more about our downtown but Fuquay-Varina's entire community."

He added, "Existing businesses in our downtown like Aviator Brewing Co. and The Mason Jar Lager Co. have put Fuquay-Varina on the map, so the town wants to work hard to attract development that complements and supports these established businesses."

Additionally, Fuquay-Varina is looking to relocate its Town Hall building to the former Bob Barker Company headquarters building located in the downtown Fuquay district. The town recently acquired this property, and the 30,000 square foot building is a much-needed upgrade from the current 14,000 square foot Town Hall building.

Seymour said the need to expand town facilities is a testament to the town's robust growth.

"The Town is committed to providing quality services and amenities needed to facilitate development for the residents and businesses of Fuquay-Varina," Seymour said.

The town is also under contract for a $5.5 million project at Fleming Loop Park.

2017 WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival

Dozens of balloon teams competed over Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina at the 2017 WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival.
Photographer: Jodi Leese Glusco

The town purchased the land six years ago but did not develop it. In fact, it's the spot where the Freedom Balloon Festival has taken place for the past three years. The money will go toward upgrading the area, putting in walking trails, and installing playground equipment and eight regulation-size soccer fields — all with lighting, parking and permanent restroom facilities.

"We're really upgrading and enhancing the space, and making it a nicer amenity than what it is today," Mitchell said.

The park's updates are anticipated to be completed by February 2019. Mitchell said development projects like this add to the quality of life for both residents and visitors.

The Town considers the recruitment of manufacturing corporations a key economic development objective.

Expanding the Town's manufacturing core is imperative to the future of Fuquay-Varina's economy.

In May, the Town closed on a 35-acre, industrial site that will be transformed into the town's newest industrial/business park capable of recruiting the newest advanced manufacturing firm that provides high-paying jobs and expands the town's corporate tax base. Town staff are working with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to have the site certified and designated as a "shovel-ready" site.

"We'll work to come up with a master plan for the site that divides out the acreage and how we can best develop the site," Mitchell explained. "It just depends on who that first bite is at the property, but our goal is that by January 2019, the property will be ready to market."

This will put the town in a good position to meet with site selectors and promote the site as a location for various businesses to make a potential home for themselves in Fuquay-Varina.

Mitchell said businesses and developers help improve the community and even give back to it.

With so many moving development pieces in Fuquay-Varina, it can be hard to keep up; but Mitchell points out that growth and development do not happen overnight.

"We've been planning for this for a long time, and we've worked really hard to update our land development ordinance, our development standards, our transportation plan and our land use plans so that we're growing in a way that everybody can be proud of," he said. "And that is yielding the best results for our community."

"Fuquay-Varina is in the path of natural progression of development. Its strategic geographical location continues to be one of its greatest assets," Seymour said. "As our community continues to experience robust growth, the town is working diligently to manage and coordinate all of the development efforts to determine the additional demand for creating supporting development opportunities. Fuquay-Varina will always have a great, small town charm, but we also realize our community's footprint is expanding and our landscape is changing."

This article was written for our sponsor, Fuquay-Varina.