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IN-TOWN LIVING — Architectural renderings of Richland Estates townhomes in the Frog Level area of Waynesville depict a trendy urban design reminiscent of West Asheville.

The demand for trendy, walkable, in-town living is manifesting with a 14-unit townhome development just a few blocks from Main Street in downtown Waynesville.

The townhomes will be located on a vacant 1.5-acre tract in Frog Level across from the railroad tracks on Richland Street (at the foot of Church Street.) The units will be sold starting at around $495,000. The price point reflects lack of housing in general, plus a coveted location within walking distance from downtown.

“Our inventory is way down. We just don’t have anything to sell. Plus, the proximity to Main Street is a big draw,” said Dan Womack, the designated Realtor for the townhomes and a broker with ReMAX Executives.

The three-bedroom townhomes, called Richland Estates, will be three stories, with a garage on the first floor and two floors of living space, including a balcony. Womack wagers they will appeal both to retirees and the younger, hip set from Asheville — where a similar townhome would go for upwards of $750,000, he said. He also wouldn’t be surprised if some were bought to be used as AirBNBs.

The project sailed through at the approval process before the Waynesville planning board earlier this month after meeting all land-use requirements, including architectural building design.

The project is an example of in-fill development in keeping with the town’s smart growth goals and fits the mixed-use characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood, according to Waynesville Planner Olga Grooman, who took the lead on analyzing the project for zoning compliance.

“It provides a variety of housing stock options. It is a walkable, in-town neighborhood separating two business districts,” Grooman said, noting its proximity to the library, downtown and Frog Level, Waynesville Middle School and older established neighborhoods.

Sitework began on the tract within days of approval.

“The developer did his homework up front and got it in line,” Womack said. “They don’t want to miss this window, because none of us know how long it is going to last.”

New use

Despite a seemingly ideal location, the tract has long been vacant. The run-down industrial-warehouse district around it had succumbed to decline over the decades and become a frequent hang-out for squatters and homeless encampments. But that’s been changing.

“Frog Level has notoriously been a depressed area. Now it is on the upswing,” Womack said.

The former owner, Ron Muse, who sat on the vacant lot for over 30 years before finally selling earlier this year.

“It wasn’t worth the upkeep,” Muse said. “People would keep dumping trash on it because it was a tucked away place all grown up. Then the city would be on me about the trash and the weeds growing.”

Muse had clashed with the town over the years when trying to get the lot rezoned for mini storage units or a garage. But the town deemed those uses incompatible with the adjacent residential neighborhood, so it remained vacant.

When Muse sold the property, he wasn’t aware of the buyer’s plans to build townhomes, but thinks it is a great use for the property.

“I wish him well. Good luck to him,” Muse said.

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