SELMA – A massive mixed-use development project in Johnston County that includes a 1.5 million square foot business park, 450,000 square feet of retail space, and more than 650 housing units across apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes is underway.

The developers of Eastfield Crossing, which sits at the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 70 in Johnston County, are currently building out sewer lines and constructing roadways that will connect each section of the 400-acre project and provide easy transportation access to the rest of the county, state, and region whether by road or by rail.

Earlier this year, the developers announced the first tenant at the project’s business park: Do Good Foods, which expects to invest $100 million and create 100 jobs in the county.  And in August, the developers welcomed Old North State Food Hall, which houses ten different food vendors.

And even more retail and commercial projects are expected, Kevin Dougherty, a partner at AdVentures Development, LLC, told WRAL TechWire in an interview.

“Overall, a little over 3 million square feet on about 400 acres,” said Dougherty of the project.  That includes two phases of development for retail space, the first of which is expected to “be out of the ground here after the first of the year,” said Dougherty.

Doubling down

Dougherty’s firm doubled-down on its investments in Johnston County multiple times, after he moved to the region in 2004, opening an office in downtown Selma shortly thereafter.

He told WRAL TechWire that the firm originally purchased 10 acres of land, but continued to buy land throughout the prior two decades.

“We started with about 10 acres, then we went with 100 acres, then 180,” said Dougherty.  The project then qualified as an Opportunity Zone, at which point the firm increased its commitment, to the 400-acre site on which the development will now be constructed, Dougherty noted.

“The thing that I noticed in 2008-2009 is that Johnston County did not slow down, never stopped,” said Dougherty.  “The county wasn’t as impacted, because people were still looking to move here.”

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Placing bets on Johnston County

So the firm kept betting on future growth.

“Having lived through the last recession, and seeing how Johnston County performed was very much an encouragement for us to place a larger bet on Johnston County and the future of Johnston County.”

Turns out, Johnston County was the state’s fastest-growing county in terms of population growth between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data.  And with an annual estimated growth rate between 4% and 5% since 2020, the region is showing no signs of slowing growth.

It’s not just businesses that are looking at Johnston County, either.  People are moving into the area with homes available to purchase below the median price of homes in Wake County, while transit access still provides workers the ability to commute to the Triangle, if needed.

Still, a preliminary economic analysis of the Eastfield Crossing development showed that it could create between 3,500 and 5,500 jobs when finished, Dougherty noted.

And the project includes plans for 100 townhomes and 200 single-family homes, as well as a 360-unit multifamily development, and three hotels.  Doughtery is seeking builders interested in constructing these projects, though the first hotel has already been sold and is in the process of development already.

“I want to make sure that we get homes that are going to look great in 20 years,” said Doughtery.  “We’re making an investment in the whole area, it’s really important in a mixed-use community that the uses cooperate with each other, that they contribute to each other, that the collaborative piece remains really important.”

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