Apartments on the rise in Waynesville: one leasing now, another underway

Nov. 15—The apartment landscape in Waynesville is about to change dramatically, with two major apartment complexes totaling 350 new units.

The towering blue apartment complex that has risen from the ashes of a razed strip mall on Russ Avenue is opening next month with 202 units — starting at $1,600 for a one-bedroom. Meanwhile, site work is underway for a 150-unit apartment complex off the Old Asheville Highway, with a target opening of spring 2025.

Both are billed as upscale apartment complexes with pools and community amenities and are being built and managed by significant apartment development firms.

The severe housing shortage and home prices out of reach for most buyers have set the stage for a burgeoning apartment rental market in Waynesville.

"There is such a massive appetite," said William Ratchford of Southwood Realty, the firm behind the Old Asheville Highway apartment in the early stages of construction.

Southwood Realty kicked off the apartment building boom in Waynesville with the Palisades of Plott Creek and is now pursuing its second project here.

"We had a waiting list as soon as we would open a building," Ratchford said, recalling the rolling openings of the Plott Creek apartments in 2020.

Demand has remained high despite prices ranging from $1,600 to $2,000 for one- to three-bedroom units. While the Plott Creek apartments generally have units available at any given time due to turnover, they are snatched up quickly.

While some tenants land in Waynesville as a cheaper alternative to the over-burdened housing market in Asheville, many are locals.

"We have a lot of people from Waynesville who live in our apartments just because they can't afford to buy," Ratchford said.

Both firms say there is plenty of demand to fill the 350 additional units coming online between the two projects — thanks partly to Waynesville's proximity to Asheville and desirable quality of life.

The Mountain Creek apartments on Russ Avenue have seen "steady leasing traffic," said Katherine Mosley of TriBridge Residential.

"We are seeing people coming from multiple sister cities nearby," Mosley said.

To lure prospective tenants, Mountain Creek's marketing campaign capitalizes on Waynesville's sense of place and mountain setting. Its website touts "Main Street charm," "fresh mountain air," and an "exciting lifestyle surrounded by nature" — emotional drivers to those who may be looking to relocate.

Monthly rent ranges from $1,600 for a one-bedroom to $2,200 for a three-bedroom. But that's still more affordable than most apartments in Asheville, Mosley said.

When creating the price points, the firm looked at the going rates for the Palisades at Plott Creek, which Mosley called their biggest competitor.

"Whenever we are looking at a prospective development, we are going to do the due diligence of making sure there is demand for the product. We also look at the competition and the kind of rates and occupancies they can achieve," she said.

Whether additional apartment inventory will drive rates down over time remains to be seen.

"Pricing is consistently evaluated and adjusted as needed," Mosley said.

The two projects are among more than 800 new housing units — in the form of apartments, condos and subdivisions — that have been permitted in Waynesville over the past four years and are in various stages of development, with at least three on hold indefinitely.

Mountain Creek

While the Russ Avenue complex is known colloquially as the BI-LO apartments due to the former grocery store at the site, its official name is Mountain Creek. The complex has a swimming pool, community fire pit, grilling station, fitness center, business center and clubhouse.

The units are high-end, down to "best-in-class finishes like white shaker cabinets," Mosley said.

"I like to describe it as an elevated mountain experience. We wanted to do something that stayed true to the community but kicks it up a notch," she said. "Some of the units have quite amazing views, I must say."

TriBridge Residential, based out of Atlanta, has an expansive portfolio of 6,500 units. One feature unique to the sense of place at Mountain Creek is a screened-in porch with rocking chairs.

But the walking distance to downtown Waynesville is one of its most significant selling points, described in marketing literature as a "vibrant downtown teeming with entertainment venues, eateries and shops."

Marketing literature also plays up the adjacent Waynesville Rec Park campus, greenway and dog park — all funded by town taxpayers and which could soon see additional use from hundreds of new apartment dwellers.

"Having proximity to acres of tennis courts and playgrounds and skate ramps, it's exciting to have that next door," Mosley said.

The developers deeded 1.5 acres of Richland Creek frontage to the town for greenway expansion. While the town benefits from a greenway extension that ties into Russ Avenue, the apartment complex benefits from a town-maintained greenway leading to the park facilities.

The apartment complex will offer discounted rent for 20 units for those with income qualifications under an affordable housing agreement brokered with the town.

In exchange for designating 10% of the units for affordable housing and deeding the land for the greenway extension, the town will grant the developers a discount on the percentage of their property for 10 years.

Groves at Waters Edge

Meanwhile, site work is barrelling along on the new Groves at Water's Edge apartment complex at the Old Asheville Highway and Howell Mill Road intersection.

The cost of the project, including the land and construction, is estimated at $25 million.

Sitework, including grading, water and sewer infrastructure, parking lots and prepping building pads should be completed by spring, Ratchford said.

The 150 units will be scattered among seven on-site buildings — similar to the Palisades at Plott Creek, which houses units among a collection of multiple buildings, which is more architecturally pleasing.

"It doesn't look like some massive urban structure and allows for more windows and views per unit," Ratchford said.

The buildings will be brick, and the site amenities will include a pool, fitness center and clubhouse.

The firm, Southwood Realty, was courted by towns west of Waynesville after launching the Palisades at Plott Creek three years ago.

"We were asked by multiple municipalities if we would come and build in their towns," he said. But they chose to make another investment in Waynesville. Ratchford says the Groves will provide a different offering than the Palisades.

"This location is more of an urban complex," he said.

While the rural setting of the Palisades has just 5 units per acre, the Groves will have 16 units per acre. The location will be convenient for those who work at Haywood Regional Medical Center and has quick access to I-40 for Asheville commuters, he said.

Southwood has an expansive portfolio in the Carolinas, including 10 apartment complexes built in the greater Asheville metro area within the last decade. The firm manages all the complexes it builds.

"When we build a complex, we are looking 30 years down the road. It is not done for a short-term market solution," Ratchford said, noting the construction's attention to quality and detail.