To Yu Hang Wang, developing his own commercial real estate accomplished several goals.
“We were looking for a third location for our restaurant, and we thought it would be easier to actually buy a piece of property and put ourselves in it and be our own landlord,” said Wang, who owns Hibachi Bistro restaurants in Wilmington, Kinston and Greenville.
Wang is developing Ocean Gate Plaza, an 11,163-square-foot building next to the Walmart shopping center on U.S. 17 in Leland, scheduled to be complete by late May or early June.
“A piece of property opened up for us that seemed like a great fit and was right in our price range, and that helped us out,” Wang said.
In addition to the first Leland location of Hibachi Bistro, Wang’s third in the Wilmington area, Ocean Gate Plaza will also hold a location of Dunkin’ Donuts and Bridgewater Wines. Like Wang, several other business owners in the area are taking the same route when it comes to developing their own buildings with room for other tenants.
For Wang, the center is a nest egg.
“We’re actually looking at this as a sort of retirement investment, to be able to have some type of stable income towards the end and not have to worry as much,” he said. “No one can work in the restaurant business forever.”
Another restaurant, Cape Fear Seafood Co., opened a third location in the Wilmington area in Leland last year, in a building near Waterford that was developed by Cape Fear Seafood Co. owner Evans Trawick. The multi-tenant, 13,300-square-foot building is now fully occupied with a Tropical Smoothie Café, an office of Curley Implant & General Dentistry and Nance’s Inc. Heating & Air.
“It’s nice for me to be able to diversify just a little bit, and we’ve got some great tenants. I’m looking forward to them being there a long time,” Trawick said.
The success of his other restaurants, one in Monkey Junction and the other in Porters Neck, enabled him to seek out another investment, Trawick said.
“It’s nice to have some other level of income from something other than the restaurant business,” he said.
Trawick said commercial development is something he might do more of in the future.
“Down the road, I would probably be interested in doing more of that as well,” he said.
The health of the economy and availability of financing in some cases is likely one of the driving factors behind business owners wanting to develop commercial space of their own, along with a desire to step up to the next level in business, said Hank Adams, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast who has been working with fellow broker Allan Fox on attracting tenants to Ocean Gate Plaza.
“As things are getting better, people who wanted to do that now have better access to resources to be able to do it,” Adams said.
For Janece Stone and her husband, Jim, developing a retail center where they could place both Janece Stone’s upscale furniture and accessories store, Sugarwood Interiors, and their older company, Stone Development & Restoration, seemed like an ideal situation.
Sugarwood Interiors serves as the anchor tenant for Sugarwood Center, 167 Porters Neck Road, and it opened its doors Jan. 2. The Stones had done commercial development before, including a 20-unit apartment complex and a Family Dollar in Raleigh.
“For us, this was not out of the ordinary,” she said. “Instead of just having our Stone Development office here, we could do two things on this property.”
And other tenants are on the way, including Physical Therapy Services of Wilmington and Amplifly Cycle & Strength, a spin cycling and fitness studio.
Slice of Life owner Ray Worrell said he hopes to break ground on two buildings at 163 Porters Neck Road sometime this year. A nearly 4,500-square-foot building will house Worrell’s fourth Wilmington location of pizza restaurant Slice of Life. An outdoor gathering space will be placed between the Slice of Life building and another, multi-tenant structure with room for up to four tenants in about 6,400 square feet.
Worrell said Slice of Life has been in business for 18 years, and he’s gotten to the point where he wanted to own the property for his fourth location.
He also owns the downtown location of Slice of Life, at 125 Market St., which underwent major renovations several years ago.
Worrell said he had searched for a potential space to lease in Porters Neck.
“I looked up there, and there wasn’t a whole lot that I was interested in so I figured I’d take on this big project,” Worrell said. “And it’s a big project for me.”
He estimates the cost of construction will be between $3.5 million and $4 million.
A hotel, the first for the Ogden- Porters Neck area, is planned on property across the street from where Worrell’s project is located.
“When you walk out the front door of the hotel you’ll be looking right straight across the street at the Slice of Life,” Worrell said.
Porters Neck is an area that has been experiencing ongoing growth, particularly in residential areas, said Cody Cress, who along with Tyler Pegg of The Cress Group of Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast is the listing agent for Sugarwood Center.
That’s something that boosted Worrell’s and the Stones’ confidence in building commercial space there, they said.
An area’s growth can often be a factor when business owners are considering getting into commercial real estate development of their own.
In the case of Leland, “it is one of the faster-growing areas in North Carolina, especially in the past five years. Everything’s kind of started exploding over here. We’re hoping that this area will keep on growing,” Wang said.
He said he looked for a place to put his project in downtown Wilmington at first.
“That turned out to be a little bit more difficult to find the right space in the downtown area,” Wang said. “Once somebody decides to sell a property downtown, you’ve got about a week before somebody else snatches it up.”