Construction on the 200-unit Palisades of Plott Creek apartment complex has been going gangbusters this summer, making up for lost time following weather-related delays over the winter and spring.

When completed, the complex on the outskirts of Hazelwood will have eight buildings plus a clubhouse.

While the project was criticized for negatively impacting the rural and pastoral character of Plott Valley, it was also heralded for bringing much-needed housing. Despite the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, developers have faith that pent-up demand for rental housing is still strong.

“I’m not worried, not for Waynesville,” said William Ratchford, vice president of Southwood Realty, the development firm.

Given just how severe the housing shortage was going into the pandemic, Ratchford doesn’t see it waning substantially.

“In Asheville, you would worry a little bit. It survives off tourism. Waynesville is not as dependent. It is still a major part of the economy, but it can survive. And y’all are probably less threatened from COVID,” Ratchford said.

Few months behind

The project is slightly behind the hoped-for timeline. Developers had anticipated the first units would be ready to start leasing by now. It will be toward the end of the year instead.

The delay wasn’t due to COVID, however.

“It was the weather that threw us off,” Ratchford said.

Site work began last June, with most of the year spent on extensive grading and prep work. The lower toe of a hillside at the back of the site had to be excavated for building pads, while the lower-lying valley floor was built up to elevate it out of the flood plain.

Next came the laying of underground utilities. After that, it was time to put down roads and pour the concrete building pads.

But first, a proper bridge had to be built over Plott Creek. The existing culvert-style stream crossing wasn’t sufficient for the weight of concrete trucks.

“For the concrete trucks to come in, we had to build our real entrance,” Ratchford said.

But a rainy winter and spring didn’t provide the needed window.

“We could not get across the creek in an environmentally sound way with the weather,” Ratchford said. “You can’t work on the creek bank when the creek bank is full.”

Once the bridge was finally completed in late spring, the apartment building sprung from the landscape seemingly overnight.

“COVID is affecting things in weird ways. You may not be able to frame in Charlotte right now, but that means we can put all the people who can’t frame there on other jobs,” Ratchford said.

On the job

The massive project has kept building inspectors with the town of Waynesville busy. Developers paid more than $110,000 in building permit fees to the town, based on an estimated project value of $14.5 million.

The roll of blueprints for the project are over a foot thick in diameter, and had to be checked, double checked, and triple checked before construction could even begin.

“You got plumbing code, electrical code, ADA, energy code, fire code — it’s a lot,” said David Kelley, a Waynesville building inspector. “Everybody puts their eyes on it, so it takes a while.”

During framing, site visits to check-off each step of construction have occurred almost daily at times. When the contractors call, the town’s team of building inspectors hustle to turn around the request for an inspection almost immediately.

“Whatever it takes, we’ll do it,” said Kelley, who knows what it’s like to work in the building industry. “You are fighting weather and wrangling subcontractors and you got concrete trucks sitting there rolling, and you don’t need local government holding anything up.”

Plott Creek is one of several projects Southwood Realty has under construction in its three-state territory. COVID has caused some challenges though, namely hiccups in the building supply chain.

“You have to order out further,” Ratchford said.

Southwood Realty has over 80 residential communities in North and South Carolina and Georgia. Ratchford said Plott Creek stands out among all of them for its premier setting and low density — 200 units on 41 acres, with half of that being untouched.

“It’s unheard of low density, and with a trout stream running through it, you can’t beat that,” Ratchford said. “It will be one of the prettiest complexes we’ve ever built.”

The apartments will be managed by Southwood’s property management arm, Triangle Real Estate. Interested renters can get on a list to be contacted when the formal rental application process gets underway. You can get on the interest list by calling 833-252-3847.

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