02/06/12 — City sees restaurant boom

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City sees restaurant boom

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 6, 2012 1:46 PM

Those going out to eat in Goldsboro will soon have more options as a restaurant boom on Berkeley Boulevard between Ash Street and Royall Avenue is expected to result in four new eateries along that corridor.

Goldsboro's Planning Commission approved site and building plans for a Longhorn Steakhouse between Firestone Tire and Ninja Hibachi on Berkeley Boulevard at a Berkeley Mall outparcel Monday as work continues on the Olive Garden construction site just yards down the road.

The restaurants, which are both owned by parent company Darden Restaurants, will seek to share a high-rise sign on the Olive Garden property at the corner of Mall Road and Berkeley Boulevard within view of travelers on U.S. 70 Bypass, but those aren't the only chain restaurants looking to move there.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and East Coast Wings & Grill have publicized intentions to move into town as well, with both restaurants claiming former restaurant buildings on either side of Krispy Kreme on East Ash Street.

Winston-Salem-based East Coast Wings will seek to bring its 75 sauces and wings to the former Heroes Bar and Grill building on the corner of Ash Street and Berkeley Boulevard, while Popeyes has put a sign up at the former Huddle House building on East Ash Street.

While both East Coast and Popeyes are moving into existing structures, there are a few hurdles yet to be cleared before the restaurants can open up, Goldsboro's Chief Inspector Ed Cianfarra said.

Cianfarra said it was likely that Popeyes would need to make some renovations to the current facility to produce its signature chicken, which would require a permit.

He also said permits have yet to be finalized on the proposed East Coast Wings building dating back to damage caused by Hurricane Irene in August. Those permits would need to be completed before any further permits were applied for.

Neither East Coast nor Popeyes had applied for permits as of Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Planning Director Randy Guthrie said the development in the Berkeley Boulevard area continues a trend from the last five years that has seen several new businesses open up, from IHOP to Cook-Out.

"I think you'll see a lot of interest in that area because Berkeley Boulevard is obviously conducive to that type of development with the base on one end with people who want to shop and go out for lunch and on the other side of Berkeley an interchange for passers-by with the mall and retail in between. We've seen a lot of redevelopment already in that corridor," he said.

And although there aren't as many vacancies in the area as there once were, Guthrie said Berkeley will likely continue to be a focus of development, especially as the new U.S. 70 Bypass will have an interchange further north.

And while the four new restaurants along the Berkeley corridor represent retail investment, Joanna Helms, the president of the Wayne County Development Alliance, said the rapid development is likely a direct result from growth in the city's industry.

Mrs. Helms said all chain restaurant companies have their own real estate companies that keep their eyes on markets.

"They all have their own set of criteria," she said, adding the factors can range from median income, amount of traffic or the age or size of the population. "Once you meet their threshold then you're on the list for future sites. What happens is when you have an increase in populations or jobs, that means there's more disposable income in your community which may result in your community popping up."

That's one of the reasons the Alliance doesn't actively recruit retailers, she said.

"I could go beg a restaurant to come, but if we don't meet their demographic criteria, they're not going to come here," she explained.

Still, through recruitment of industrial companies, she said the Alliance can have an effect on the area's retail market, especially when jobs are created as a result of business recruitment.

She said the Alliance had several conversations with Darden in advance of the decisions to bring Olive Garden and Longhorn to Goldsboro, mostly about the area's prospects for attracting new businesses.

But while the connection between attracting restaurants and the Alliance's recruiting of industry might not be formally linked, Mrs. Helms said details about the area like new restaurants and the 468 industrial jobs created in 2011 give her organization good news to share when businesses ask for demographics and statistics.

"What we are glad is to show that when we recruit new businesses, we have had restaurant growth. That shows we're a growing community and that businesses are not looking at a community that's stagnant."

But beyond business investment, the restaurants also mean one other thing: More options for dining in the city.

Mrs. Helms said she is particularly excited about getting ribs from Longhorn Steakhouse since she usually has to go to Wake Forest to get them.

Still, there is always room for more restaurants, although she's adamant that it's not as simple as petitioning.

"I'd love to have a Panera Bread here but they have to pick us, we can't pick them," she said.