Despite setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, developers are moving forward with plans for West New Bern,
Weyerhaeuser’s planned mixed-use community near N.C. 43 and U.S. 70.

According to Todd Powell, Weyerhaeuser’s president of Real Estate Development, ground has been broken for a planned 224 unit apartment complex, with construction expected to begin in early January. The apartments, which will be built by Comet Development out of Greensboro, will be located on the north side of the development’s entrance on N.C. 43.

Powell said a new Department of Motor Vehicles building going up across the street from the West New Bern entrance should be completed within the next two months. He said a convenience store and medical center have also signed on to build locations adjacent to the new DMV office on the West New Bern site.

“The hope is that by next summer you’ll have some apartments and the same with the convenience store and the medical office. I think they’ll both be in operation sometime in 2021,” said Powell. According to Powell, Weyerhaeuser is currently working with D.R. Horton, a national home construction company, to develop lots for the site. He said the initial phase 1 work at West New Bern will encompass 540 total acres – 500 acres located in the northeast quadrant of U.S. 70 and N.C. 43 and 40 acres in the northwest quadrant. A 35-plus acre lake chain is also planned for phase 1, with walking paths and green spaces, as well as a recreation center and other amenities.

Powell said home designs will include ranch and two-story, single-family houses ranging from 1,600 to 3,400 square feet, with pricing expected to be in the $200,000-$300,000 range.Utilities at the West New Bern site, including electric, water, sewer, and telecommunications, are all in place, Powell noted.

According to Powell, construction on the initial 73 single family homes at West New Bern should begin around January. “For a project of this size we want to offer buyers a full menu of homes from starter homes up through larger custom homes, said Powell. “We recognize this is a very important project for the City of New Bern and it’s nice to finally see some positive momentum in spite of everything that’s going on right now.”

Powell admitted COVID-19 has impacted work at the West New Bern site. “I think COVID has delayed it a little bit. Right when it started in March and April there was a lot of thought on ‘Okay, what’s going to happen with the housing market?’” he commented. “Things have actually moved in the other direction where there’s some positivity but I think there’s still some concern about whether we’re getting ready to go into a big recession, when you look at the number of COVID cases around the U.S.”

Powell said he believes COVID-19 has actually increased demand for residential homes. “The first thing happening is you have interest rates falling to all time record lows, where you can get a 30 year fixed mortgage for under three percent,” he noted. “But on the negative side, when you look at everything that’s happening now from a consumption perspective, savings are at an all time high, so folks are getting dollars but they are also saving dollars, so I think there’s a cutdown on purchasing.”

The West New Bern project, which was originally called Craven Thirty, was touted by former N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue in
2012 but was stalled by the economic downturn of 2018. When the Craven Thirty project was first introduced, plans called for the 540-acre tract to be divided into residential and commercial areas, with a state-of-the-art cinema and community bike trails. Several setbacks, including the N.C. 43 South leg being pulled off of the state transportation plan and the state Department of Revenue’s decision to end financial credits for the movie production industry — caused the initial plans to fall through. West New Bern is now planned as a primarily residential, mixed use development. A 388 .7 acre portion of the site has been rezoned from industrial to residential and commercial use.

In September 2019 the City of New Bern annexed approximately 58 acres at West New Bern, which is now part of the city’s Ward 4. During their July 28 meeting, the New Bern Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing to consider annexing an additional 11-acre West New Bern tract. Representative Clifford Parson requested the annexation on behalf of Weyerhaeuser. The annexed areas will fall under the City of New Bern’s utility, police and fire services.

(originally published by the New Bern Sun Journal)