Development Beat: New Building Report

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Earlier this month, we touched on the plethora of projects getting developed around the Crabtree Valley Mall, as site work permits had been issued for Crabtree Commons, situated just behind the mall and at the intersection of Crabtree Valley Avenue and Creedmoor Road.

On the left, you can see the empty lot for Crabtree Commons, future home of J. Alexander's. On the right, the Creekside at Crabtree.

James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

On the left, you can see the empty lot for Crabtree Commons, future home of J. Alexander’s. On the right, the Creekside at Crabtree.

Although we mentioned that Crabtree Commons would be home to a new 8,000 square-foot restaurant, we didn’t go into any details on what, specifically that restaurant would be. It’s not like the information wasn’t out there: the Triangle Business Journal and WRAL both reported last year that the space would be filled by J. Alexander’s; we just weren’t 100 percent sure at the time that this was still the case.

Early renderings for the new J. Alexander's were issued with last year's site plans

Early renderings for the new J. Alexander’s were issued with last year’s site plans

Well, it is. The permits were issued last week, and besides, J. Alexander’s touts the upcoming Raleigh location on its website and even offers a link to fill out a job application. The third question: How much money do you need to make per week? As if people don’t work in the restaurant industry for love of the game.

If you’ve never heard of the chain before, J. Alexander’s, describes itself as “a contemporary American restaurant, known for its wood-fired cuisine” that offers a menu which includes “a varied and rotating selection of features like Seafood Czarina, Tuscan Steak, Grilled Fish with Mango Papaya Salsa and Chicken Milanese.”

Fascinating. Nothing more exciting than a higher-end restaurant chain offering American-style cuisine opening up behind a shopping mall. To be fair, J. Alexander’s went to the great trouble of creating a nearly five-minute long video on their website titled “Unchained.”

Now, I’ll happily spend hours digging through property, deed and permit records for a site that I’m writing about for this column, but I just could not make it through that entire video. It starts off with the CEO saying how the term “chain restaurant” has a (well-deserved) negative connotation, but that J. Alexander’s is different. Of course it is. I’m sure the CEO of Applebee’s would say the same thing.

While a brochure from Weingarten Realty, the property’s owner and developer, lists the restaurant at 8,000 square feet, and site plans filed last year have it coming in around 8,420 square feet, permits issued March 24 list the restaurant’s size at a total of 9,314.

Crabtree

Crabtree

Not a huge difference, but worth noting at least.

A little more interesting is the history of the property, and I’m sure one of our readers will let us know if we got this mixed up, but this site used to be home to the shopping center Kidd’s Hill Plaza, and more specifically, a Steak and Ale restaurant that was apparently quite popular with the residents of the nearby Sunrise Senior Living Facility. Like J. Alexander’s, the Crabtree location was the only Steak and Ale in North Carolina.

The old Steak and Ale was popular with nearby seniors

Wake County

The old Steak and Ale was popular with nearby seniors

Although the building and the surrounding property had been bought out in 2003, Steak and Ale had announced plans to remain open through the end of its lease, which in 2005 apparently had several more years on it, the TBJ noted that court documents at the time indicated S&A had stopped paying rent. Whoops.

The plans at the time called for the entire Kidd’s Hill Plaza, including Steak and Ale, to be torn down (which it was, by then-owner Whistler Investment Group) and replaced with something called the Galleria at Crabtree Valley. Initially, the Galleria was going to include a 9-story hotel, condos, office, retail and entertainment uses, but the property eventually changed hands and the project was renamed the Crabtree Village.

It’s actually kind of unusual for an entire shopping center to be completely torn down like that, so if anyone reading has some more details, we’d love to hear them.

In 2010, plans for Crabtree Village fell apart when Wells Fargo foreclosed on the property.

Now, more than a decade after the destruction of Kidd’s Hill Plaza, work has finally begun on a new restaurant on the property. Given the property’s troubled history, that’s definitely a notable achievement.

The $3.7 million buildout of J. Alexander’s will be handled by McCarty Construction. According to its website, this Norcross, Georgia based contractor has handled five previous J. Alexander’s projects.

J. Alexander's

J. Alexander's

J. Alexander’s

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