Planning board OKs unnamed Russ Avenue project

A public hearing Monday afternoon generated plenty of interest from people who hoped to find out the name of the grocery store possibly coming to Russ Avenue. But that information never materialized. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The Waynesville Planning Board approved a major retail project Monday, recommending aldermen also move forward, even though the company hasn't been named.

It's been rumored for months the Publix grocery store chain is coming to town, but that's still not official.

RELATED | Ask 13: Is Publix shopping for a location in Waynesville?

All that's known so far is the project would mean a multimillion-dollar investment and hundreds of jobs. The developer has submitted plans for an approximately 50,000 square foot building that includes a drive-through pharmacy, retail space and 240+ parking spaces. The plans also include a separate 7,000 square foot retail building.

The artist rendering shows what the 50,000-square-foot main retail building would look like, but as to which retailer will put its name up, no one seems to know, or isn't telling.

"Despite rumors, this applicant has not officially provided the name of the future tenant," Elizabeth Teague, the Development Services director for Waynesville, said.

RELATED | Ask 13: Grocery store plans fuel Publix rumors

The applicant is a company called MAB American, which has a history that includes Publix as one of its many clients.

"We have to save those announcements for the retailer and their own media folks," John Argo, of MAB American, said of why the business' name wasn't being released.

Town staff unanimously recommended that, with some conditional changes, aldermen hold a second public hearing for a final vote.

There's an economic component almost impossible to pass on.

"MAB is looking to invest $15 million-$20 million to redevelop these properties. It will revitalize the area by providing a retail center, that will provide up to 200 permanent jobs, 200 construction jobs over the 18-month construction period, as well," project manager Jennifer Losurdo said.

But there's still the big question on the street. Is it Publix or not? Many hope the answer's yes.

"They go above and beyond, and this neighborhood, and this area the way it is right now, needs some help and people like this would do us wonders." Haywood County resident Tony Giorgio said.

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