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Pooler continues retail, housing boom |

Pooler continues retail, housing boom

It’s hard to imagine a time when Wal-Mart on Pooler Parkway was surrounded by empty lots and there were only about 25 apartments in the city of Pooler, but such was the case about 18 years ago.

Then came the completion of the $29 million Pooler Parkway, which opened up access between Interstate 16 and Interstate 95. Opened in phases, the first two-mile stretch of road opened in 1997 and, following some delays, the final phase opened in April 2004.


“… It seemed like as soon as I got on (Pooler City) Council in January 2004, things just started to pop. And businesses were popping up both on Pooler Parkway and Highway 80,” said Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb, who became mayor just four months after joining council.

“We started getting some restaurants out here, Hardee’s, Western Sizzlin and Lovezzola’s, and we thought we were something then. It was great and that was plenty for the people who lived here, but if you wanted more, you always had to travel to Savannah to go to the southside or downtown to enjoy a little more upscale restaurant or even go to a doctor, dentist and definitely a hospital.”

 

Although born in Savannah, Lamb has called the city home for the past 41 years and when he moved to Pooler he estimates there were about 2,000 residents and one main road. According to 2017 Census data, nearly 24,000 people reside in the city now.

Residential boom

The Preserve at Godley Station opened in 1999, the first major apartment complex in the city, bringing with it 380 units on a 13-acre site on the south end of the parkway; now with more than a dozen complexes there are thousands of apartments. Lamb said the city is working to curb the influx by only permitting the complexes in areas that are already zoned appropriately.

On the single family housing side, the largest amount of single family residential building permits were issued in 2006 with 457, and 2007 brought an additional 449 permits. Although the numbers slipped when the recession hit, Lamb said the construction never stopped.

“(We were averaging) anywhere from 500 to 600 homes (per) year, and that was an unbelievable rate the way things were going, and when the bubble burst, things did slow down, but they continued with anywhere from 100 to 150 new homes per year, which is still a very good number for most cities,” he said.

“The commercial never stopped. It continued and the businesses kept coming.”

North end commercial construction

Soon after Wal-Mart opened its doors in 2000, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Red Roof Inn and numerous gas stations and restaurants followed. Later in 2010, Publix became the first major grocer on the north end of the parkway, and in more recent years, Michael’s, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, PetSmart opened their doors along the parkway.

Most recently plans for international discount grocer Aldi were announced for 152 Traders Way, which will encompass 22,399 square feet and include more than a 100 parking spaces.

Pooler is also set to welcome a new home décor store on an outparcel near the Tanger Outlets Savannah later this year. Plano, Texas-based At Home is slated to open Oct. 24 with a grand opening scheduled for Nov. 10. The chain has nine other locations across Georgia and features thousands of items, including furniture, bedding, kitchen accessories and patio and garden items.

In 2017, the city issued 78 commercial construction permits. The most permits on record came in 2015 when the city issued 343 permits. The year before that it was 207.

Big retail arrives

A few of those permits went to Atlanta-based developer Ben Carter, who announced plans for the Tanger Outlets Savannah, a 430,000-square-foot shopping mall along Interstate 95 in 2012. Carter also held numerous outparcels surrounding the main development.

The decision to bring Tanger, which officially opened in 2015, to the area was based on a lot of research which yielded a positive outcome for success.

“… We did some demographic analysis and noticed Savannah was growing primarily northward with Pooler leading the growth in the metro region,” said Bennett Rudder, vice president of Ben Carter Enterprises.

 

“Then we looked at the traffic count on I-95, the number of hotels and the number of people who stay for overnight trips and the incredible tourism. And site specific was the access and visibility on I-95,” he said.

Carter sold his stake in the outlet mall in 2016, but retained the outparcels, which are now home to Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hobby Lobby, Ulta Beauty and Home Goods. Applebee’s and Texas Road House and a second Dan Vaden Chevrolet dealership and three hotels also surround the outlet mall.

“Our practice as a firm is really to master plan, a mix of hotels, residential, retail, restaurants and other amenities ,and as mall developers, we knew that certain large anchor stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Hobby Lobby liked the synergy of being around a million-square-foot regional destination,” he said.

Carter’s company still has several outparcels remaining, so there’s more development coming down the pipeline.

“There are three hotels and a fourth one coming with approximately 430 rooms and we’re down to our final seven sites with approximately eight total acres, and we’re in active conversations with additional restaurants, retail and hotel developers,” Rudder said.

“The city has been fantastic to work with, and I think they do a great job at representing their population base, but also being forward thinking and willing to work (with) folks who want to put together the right developments for the right places.”

Development across the city seems to be ongoing, and empty lots don’t stay empty very long.

“We have fuel centers, hotels and other retail centers in Savannah and throughout the Southeast, but this is our first development in Pooler,” said Stature Investments President and COO Yash Desai, who recently broke ground on The Crossings at Godley Station, a 42,000-square-foot retail development.

“…We are thrilled to begin this project in Pooler as the timing with the area growth is ideal. Ultimately, we selected this site in Pooler because we’ve long wanted to make our own impact in the area. We are proud to make this investment in our hometown, the local economy, and create job and enjoyment opportunities for others.”

South end commercial construction

While the north end of Pooler is booming, the activity is also spreading to the south end with the ongoing housing and retail expansions around Savannah Quarters, which includes another Publix location that opened last year, a Parker’s convenience store and the Commons retail center, which is currently under construction and will bring 32,000 square feet and feature 21 tenant units to the area.

“We’ve started to a see a slight migration to the south in the last few years,” Lamb said.

One south end development sure to have an impact on all of Pooler and the surrounding area is the St. Joseph’s/Candler “micro hospital,” the first phase is expected to open next year on an 18-acre site near Pooler Parkway and Interstate 16.

 

The overall project is part of a 10-year, $62 million build-out that will create a 170,000-square-foot, multi-story, technologically advanced medical facility.

“I believe that’s going to make even more businesses go toward the south end,” Lamb said.

“… We see this as a growth area and we’re thinking (south end development) may ease some of the congestion to the north and people will start to come to the south to shop, also.”

Foram Group, the company behind the Starland Village development in Savannah’s Thomas Square neighborhood, is also expanding into south Pooler with the Lakeside Village development, which will include luxury apartments and commercial spaces. Construction is expected to begin next month.

“This is an incredible project that is literally years in the making and will push Pooler to another level of living envy,” said Travis Stringer, Foram Group president.

The south end has also welcomed Shepherd Living at Savannah Quarters, a $27 million, 10-acre assisted living facility that offers arm-to-table food, fine wine storage, a full-service salon, a greenhouse, private kitchens, animal therapy, walking trails, and a tavern.

“… At some point the kids are gone and you start getting older, which I know all about, and you need these facilities and they seem to be coming our way in Pooler, and I think the city of Pooler has been put in a very good place for the future,” Lamb said.

“I think it’s going to do very well.”

Other offerings, looking ahead

Lamb said the city isn’t all about shopping; with multiple movie theaters, bowling alleys, a water park and a strong recreation department, he finds that lots of visitors also come for the entertainment.

“This is one of the best recreation departments anywhere around… It’s continued to grow and be the focus of every group of council and mayor that has come through and I think that’s why it’s been so good,” he said.

As for the development activity, Lamb said it’s important to remember that the land owners have rights and the city continues to try and plan to stay ahead of the ball by working with potential new businesses on traffic plans and working to sync the traffic lights on Highway 80.

“If you could hit everything perfectly to grow a little slower would be great, but you have to remember also that people own the land, it’s zoned to be built on, and if you do anything that hurts those people you could be held liable,” he said.

“… I do get concerned about the traffic, but I also feel like we have a great council, we have a great staff that is always trying to stay ahead of the ball, but it can be difficult when you’re growing as fast as we are,” he said.

Looking ahead to the next five to 10 years, Lamb said he’s hopeful that the growth on the south end of Pooler will continue and help ease the congestion on the other end of town, and he’d also like to see the revitalization of old town Pooler around City Hall.

“We’re hoping that between the north end, the south end and old town Pooler that you can spread the businesses out to a point so that the growth isn’t just in one area,” he said, adding that he’d like to see the addition of a library and an area around city hall that could host community festivals.

 

“What we’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years has been growth in the northern end north of Highway 80 to I-95 on Pooler Parkway and that’ll continue to grow, but maybe it’ll slow down just a little bit.”

He’s also looking forward (to) the completion of the micro hospital and hopes to have more medical facilities in the future along with continuing to build on the city’s recreation department.

“Additional medical facilities would be great for this city. This city would be what I call a complete city. It would have everything you need to do inside the city limits,” he said.

“… And I hope we continue to grow in the recreation department, because kids will always (need) recreation.”

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