A #8216;versatile#8217; building plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FRANKLIN—It’s being called College Square, at the corner of College and Stewart drives, and it’s being developed by a company new to the Franklin and Southampton markets.

The Sewell Corp. is developing the high-visibility property on which a 26,000-square-foot office building is going up, planned to open in February and designed to accommodate either retail or office customers.

“It’s very versatile,” said Chris Sewell, owner/operator of The Sewell Corp.

“Say you wanted a customer like Quiznos,” he said, citing one example, or a chiropractor, or a gift shop. “This would definitely accommodate their needs.”

Sewell said the advertising signs launching the leasing process would go up within 30 days. No leases have been signed and no tenants have been selected, Sewell said.

The building is planned as a standalone center, with two wings meeting in the center at a right angle. The property is located alongside the Exxon station on College Drive, beneath the abandoned Winn Dixie supermarket. It sits across from the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library and within sight of Paul D. Camp Community College.

Its location, said Sewell, was one factor in the decision to buy and develop the property. “And the price was reasonable — not great, but workable,” Sewell said.

The site work is being completed by W.P. Taylor of Suffolk.

It is the company’s first foray into this market. Sewell said “most of my work is done” at other locations in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Elizabeth City, N.C.

But with Lowe’s and Farm Fresh under construction along Armory Drive and the anticipated continued growth of the area made College Square an attractive project, Sewell said.

“We can get in on the ground floor,” he said.

It is a project Sewell said he plans “to keep in our portfolio. We’re not doing this to sell it” in five years. He said his company will “own it, lease it and manage it.”

It is the first of at least two projects the company is pursuing. The second is on 12 acres at the south end of Stewart Drive, but that plan has hit some snags in the zoning process that has taken “seven grueling months,” Sewell said. The purchase of that property has not been finalized.

The city has planned to extend Stewart Drive to Councill Drive, and approval of Sewell’s proposal to develop and build a self-storage facility remains unresolved in city hall.

But College Square continues.

“We think,” Sewell said, “It’s going to be a nice property.”