By CALVIN PYNN
In an empty, fenced off lot off Route 100 in Dublin, a lone tent is set up in the middle of the field next to a bulldozer.
Pulaski County’s leaders are gathered underneath that tent, mingling and talking about the ground they’re walking on. Pulaski Mayor Jeff Worrell and Economic Development Director John White point at the land in the distance and reminisce about the New River Valley Fair that was once held there long ago.
While they talk about the site’s past, everyone is there to kick off its future. The massive, grassy lot will become ShaeDawn Park Way, and at last Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, the first soil was turned to signify an area that will bring new commercial and industrial prospects to Pulaski County.
“The economic impact for the area through this is going to be huge,” said Jim Hager, president of Diversified Developers, the company responsible for transforming the site.
The ShaeDawn Park Way will be built on over 100 acres of land, 30 of which will connect to Route 100 and go inward, including space for retail businesses in the way of stores, restaurants, hotels, and the like. The rest of it will become industrial property, as they plan to bring in manufacturing and warehouse operations to the site, which, according to Hager, will benefit from nearby rail access.
Hager said construction on the site is expected to start in the next couple weeks for what will be a long, ongoing process to continually develop the site. The initial focus will be connecting Route 100 to the site, which will make up Phase 1 of the project as a road will be paved through the property.
The paved road will start out as a four-lane road, but will then be narrowed down to two lanes.
“We’re having it built so that if we need to widen it later, it’s gonna be easier to widen it and extend the center,” Hager said. “In other words, we’re building median to take up some topsoil and put down some stone and asphalt. It’s already graded for the triple widening of that later.”
At some point, he said, there will be a road that connects the property to Randolph Park nearby, as they plan to blaze bike trails and walking trails from the site.
“It all compliments each other,” Hager said. “The fact that Randolph Park is there really helps with those industries. A lot of industries are really huge into wellness plans and stuff like that, so if their employees can go out and walk the trails at lunch, and stuff like that, it all works together real well.”
The site is also expected to include features such as a curved gutter throughout, as well as lighted ponds.
Phase 1 of the ShaeDawn Park Way is expected to be completed later this year, around November or December. Phase 2 is expected to start somewhere in that time frame, and will include the improvements made to Route 100, such as additional traffic lights, widening the adjacent Bagging Plant Road, and adding turn lanes.
Eventually, the property will be developed to connect to the entire surrounding area, such as the Veteran’s Cemetery just up the road on Route 100. In the long term, Hager said they even hope to extend the Park Way as far as to connect to the Huckleberry Trail, which runs between Christiansburg and Blacksburg.
According to Aric Bopp, executive director of the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance, maximizing ShaeDawn’s potential could be a big boost for the area.
“We’re talking millions of dollars in investment, and hopefully hundreds of jobs when it’s all said and done,” Bopp said.
The million dollar question, however, is how long it will take to develop the ShaeDawn Park Way.
“There’s no telling at this point,” he said. “It could happen overnight, or 10 years from now we could still be bringing in infrastructure and things like that, and it’s just always tough to tell.”
However, Bopp also said that maximizing the site will be a constant process.
“I think you can’t just leave well enough alone, or you’re gonna fall behind,” Bopp said. “You have to just keep pushing forward, a new product, and new opportunities.”
In that sense, he said the region is under served from a retail standpoint, and the ShaeDawn Park Way should be a sound response to the spending potential of the college students and higher income professionals in the New River Valley. He added that the prospect of new industries on the property should be promising as well.
“I think this region has proven that it can adapt and modify to a lot of different industries, so that should be fun to see,” Bopp said. “Five years ago, who would’ve thought we’d have a Colombian plastics manufacturer, a Mexican greenhouse, and a Polish candle maker coming into the community?”
Diversified Developers has been working to make use of the property for the past eight years, according to Hager. Although he admitted that it has been difficult to attract companies to the site during that time, he is optimistic that bringing a road in through the site will inspire that same confidence in other companies for the ShaeDawn Park Way.
“People have a hard time seeing something until there’s a road where they can really picture their building there,” Hager said. “I think this road is gonna make a huge difference in that, and I expect to see good things happen in the near future.”