BB&T, Cato on verge of opening, completing Southside Plaza puzzle

Apr. 06, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Two years ago this month, Southside Plaza sustained heavy damage from a tornado. Now, it has a revamped look and is nearly full again — with a clothing store and a new bank branch coming soon.

Nearly every storefront is home to a company that’s open for business, with the lone exception being Cato Fashions — where signs in the window announce it will reopen soon. And in less than two months, work on a state-of-the-art BB&T financial center will be completed.

The 3,200-square-foot branch will open May 20 and replace the financial center now located at 145 W. Main St., which will close May 17. The center is under construction at the front of the plaza, on a site where Umami Asian Bistro stood before the building was struck by the tornado and later torn down.

The new facility will offer a range of services, including checking and savings accounts, loans, safe deposit boxes, investment services and other services. Cindy Holder is the financial center leader.

“Having the BB&T on the front of the center kind of cleans up that whole corner, so I’m feeling very optimistic about that,” Bob Bridwell, Sanford/Lee County planning director, said Thursday.

Bridwell said that when Walmart moved out of Southside Plaza to its present location, many in town didn’t think the plaza would remain viable. But it held its own until the tornado hit, and then the area was largely vacant once again.

But now, he said — in large part because it’s simply such a good location — the plaza is actually better than ever.

“I think it’s remarkable that the center has come back the way it has,” he said. “Now it looks more vibrant than any time since I’ve been in Sanford.”

The BB&T financial center at the plaza will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. The drive-thru will be open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday.

“This is an important market for us, and we are pleased to open this new facility in Sanford,” Mark Packard, president of the bank’s South Central Region, said in a written statement provided to The Herald Friday.

In other Lee County news, Bridwell said his office recently issued all the permits necessary for construction to begin on the Walmart Express that will be built in downtown Broadway. A second proposed Walmart Express, on Tramway Road about a block from the intersection with U.S. 1, hasn’t gotten its construction permits yet, but Bridwell said he expects that will happen soon. He also said that as people get more used to the Hwy. 421 Bypass, he expects more development near where that road intersects Highway. 87, just north of Carolina Trace. However, he said, development elsewhere along the bypass will probably be slow because much of the land it crosses doesn’t have access to the sewer system.