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Town of Newport in the Crystal Coast poised for growth

Posted October 20, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

This article was written for our sponsor, Crystal Coast Economic Development Foundation.

Newport, North Carolina, is traversed by the Newport River, has a storied history of Union occupation during the American Civil War, and is right next door to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Located in the west-central region of Carteret County, the town of Newport will operate as a "front door" to the Crystal Coast from the Triangle and points west when the new I-42 is completed between I-40 in Garner and the Carteret County line. Newport’s town motto is “The Town with Old-Fashioned Courtesy,” and that welcoming attitude is bringing new investment to the town.

An important component of the new interstate 42 is the Havelock Bypass, which is under construction and projected to be completed by 2024. As explained by the NCDOT, the Havelock Bypass "will be a four-lane, median-divided highway that will provide a high-speed alternative to using U.S. 70 through Havelock, which is hampered by numerous traffic signals at intersecting side streets."

The Town of Newport is expected to experience growth thanks to this new interstate, the town's proximity to Cherry Point, and its available municipal utilities and affordable land for development.

"The front door of Carteret County is Newport, and you're going to be able to get here within two to two and a half hours from Wake County once the new bypass is completed," said Dennis Barber, mayor of Newport. Barber is also chair of the Carteret County Transportation Committee and a Carteret County sheriff's deputy. "We're going to attract many more people to Carteret County because of that bypass."

Newport had just 1,800 residents in 1980 and now has a population of 4,800, and the mayor predicts the new interstate will accelerate the town's growth trajectory in the same way that the completion of I-40 to Wilmington put Leland in Brunswick County on the map.

"Our population continues to grow every year, and I am confident the new census data will confirm our accelerating growth," said Barber. "We believe the Havelock Bypass and the new I-42 will do for us what I-40 to Wilmington did for Leland. In that little town, there wasn't a whole lot there years ago prior to the interstate. Now it's a thriving community with all kinds of businesses and amenities."

Beyond the Havelock bypass and I-42, Barber cited the expansion of nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Carteret County's award-winning school system as drivers behind Newport's anticipated growth, as well as the town's affordability and beauty. Over $1 billion in new construction is projected at Cherry Point in the next decade as the base prepares to be the largest home of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the Marine Corps.

"A lot of military families move or retire here and look for a place to live, and Newport is a really great place to bring your family," said Barber. "Cherry Point is a huge employer and a huge asset and economic engine for Newport, Carteret county and the entire region."

Additionally, the presence of municipal water and sewer capacity and abundant and affordable land for new development of all types makes Newport primed for growth and expansion. A 2012 strategic plan for the town laid the groundwork to put natural gas along Highway 70 from the county line all the way to downtown Morehead City. Natural gas, together with municipal water and sewer services, make property along U.S. 70 in Newport ripe for commercial and residential development.

"We are the land barons right now. We have the most available land for development along that stretch of the highway than anybody else in Carteret County," said Barber. "We're already starting to see growth. There is an increase in single-family and multi-family housing construction, and more people are coming in asking us about properties that are available for every type of development. A lot more developers are interested in Newport right now."

The land availability and presence of municipal services are a few reasons why Jeremy Jackson, owner of JC Jackson Homes, decided to develop Heritage Pointe — a new subdivision in Newport of homes mostly in the $250,000 - $300,000 range.

Heritage Pointe is located 10 miles from the beach and 10 minutes from Cherry Point and offers 3-5 bedroom single family homes in 16 different floor plans. Each home is on a .25 to half-acre lot and there are 320 lots planned. The phased development is actively working on its third phase of lots after an initial lot collection of 60 homesites and a second collection of 38 were developed. The community has been incredibly well-received in the market, and a future planned phase of Heritage Pointe includes preserved green space and RV/boat storage.

"We've got a very diverse community, from young families to retirees. There are those who work from home, and some who work at Cherry Point and other area businesses. There are those who are from this area and many who are moving to Carteret County from other places," said Jackson.

Jackson, who grew up on the Craven County side of the Carteret-Craven county line, said he considers both counties home. While he had the opportunity after school to go on to what some would consider "bigger and better things," all he really wanted to do was come back home. When he did, he noticed a similar sentiment in others who felt the pull of the Crystal Coast.

"I kept noticing pictures of Marines in a restaurant in Carteret County. And I thought, this is where they're going on their time off. It just got me thinking about quality of life, access to the beach, etc. I thought, 'How do we create an opportunity in Newport that's very central to Highway 70, which is the main corridor to our area?'" he said. "Many military personnel would tell us that they may get sent to another duty station, but they're coming back here to retire. So I always felt like that was just great validation that I was in the right place."

"Historically I had built mostly in Craven County, and we had done a little bit in Carteret. I'd been looking for the right spot in Carteret and the right opportunity to provide housing for people who live here as permanent residents. And what I found was there was an opportunity for folks moving into the area too," continued Jackon, a fourth generation builder and developer. Jackson started JC Jackson Homes in 2005 and said he's loved working with a lot of military families who come to Eastern North Carolina from all over the world.

Like Mayor Barber, Jackson noted Carteret County's great public school system, Newport's proximity to the beach and Cherry Point, its municipal resources and the new I-42 as reasons he invested in the community.

"It's just a great location," he said. "The land opportunity became available. We need municipal water and sewer utilities and Newport had it. The town is also pro-development and supportive, which is really important today in a very highly regulated industry. Town officials helped us get the project through the permitting process, because they certainly look out for and protect their town, which they should. And we're all on the same team."

Jackson said as a developer in Carteret and Craven counties, it's hard to be in the business and not be an optimist.

"The pace here is just slower and more comfortable and I think there's been a really renewed focus on quality of life, particularly given the year that we've had so far, with respect to COVID-19. We're all reevaluating what's important to us," said Jackson. "Just recognizing this area and what we have here — I truly believe that we're just starting to be known, and the future is very bright."

This article was written for our sponsor, Crystal Coast Economic Development Foundation.

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