In an area of Columbia County brimming with neighborhoods and residential property, the first commercial component of Riverwood Town Center is now open for business -- and others soon will follow.
"I think where we are (is) in the beginning of the next concentric circle of development in Columbia County," said E.G. Meybohm, owner of Meybohm Realty, a developer of the project and the surrounding Riverwood Plantation residential community. "This is the next major development area."
A grand-opening ceremony was held Wednesday for Publix, which anchors Riverwood Town Center at Washington Road and William Few Parkway. The 45,400-square-foot store is the third Publix in the county.
The new Publix is the farthest grocery store in the northern and western parts of the county. Appling residents are about 4 miles closer to the shopping center than to the Wal-Mart in Evans.
"One of the things about this store is you'll attract people all the way from the lake, from Lincoln and McCormick counties," Meybohm said. "Even people from Harlem will come to this store because of the ease of access."
For Kathy Rotert, of McCormick, S.C., the new Publix provides her with a shorter trip to do grocery shopping.
Before the Evans grocery store opened, Rotert said she'd either drive to Greenwood, S.C., or Augusta to pick up groceries.
"It's closer to my house," she said. "Because they have opened this store, that saves me like 10 or 15 minutes."
Though the shopping center is still 32 miles away from her home in Savannah Lakes Village, Rotert said she faces far less traffic than she would driving through the county.
"I don't have to go all the way into town and hit traffic on Bobby Jones (Expressway) or even Washington Road," she said. "I look forward to having one place to get everything I need."
Publix, which employees about 72 associates, is open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily and joins several grocery stores that have opened for business in the county in recent weeks.
Two Food Lions -- one in Martinez and another near Grovetown -- opened on Oct. 21. A Grovetown Wal-Mart opened Oct. 28 and anchors The Gateway shopping center on Horizon South Parkway at Interstate 20.
In coming months, Riverwood Town Center also will include a Great Clips, Sky Nails, White House Cleaners, Woody's Spirits and Tao Restaurant, an Asian fusion eatery. The 15-acre commercial site also contains five out-parcels. Construction on a CVS Pharmacy, McDonald's and a planned professional development adjacent to Riverwood Town Center is expected to start soon.
Development Services Director Richard Harmon said he doesn't think the more rural parts of the county will see an overwhelming spike in commercial developments. "I think you're going to find it more in pockets," he said. "Obviously, when you start getting more rooftops, the commercial is coming behind it to service those rooftops."
One of those pockets, Harmon said, could be where newly-constructed schools are located.
Harmon also said he believes the new shopping center will enhance property values of homes nearby and to the north of the development.
County Commissioner Charles Allen, who hopes the new store will add sales tax dollars for the county, sees development continuing in the area.
"The idea is to have some neighborhood shopping out that way," said Allen, who represents the district where the shopping center is located. "The whole (development) layout is well thought out."
He agrees with Meybohm that the shopping center will attract residents from outside the county line.
"It's 5 five miles closer to them," he said. "They have to go through less red lights to get to a grocery store."
Meybohm said he believes that the center's location also will boost residential development both west and north of Evans.
"Our hope is it will help us with what we're doing in Riverwood and with other developments in the area," he said.
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