Four years ago, Jake and Ursula Lebioda saw downtown Waynesville as an area with a lot of potential — considering its history, scenic location along Route 66, and the booming and enthusiastic community surrounding it.
They had a vision for downtown Waynesville. One day, it would be an area for people in the community to come, park their cars, shop, have lunch, socialize, and enjoy.
They wanted it be the centralized location where people could get that cozy, quaint, small-town U.S.A feeling while in Waynesville.
And on Wednesday, the Lebodias made another huge stride toward making that vision a reality when We Can Development broke ground in the Old Western Auto lot, marking the beginning of their next big project: a retail development center.
The retail center, located on Benton Street in the Waynesville square, will consist of seven units with a courtyard in the middle and all units will be retail stores.
We Can Development, owned by Jake and Ursula Lebioda and Tom and Pat Campbell, has been revamping buildings and developing businesses in downtown Waynesville for the last four years. Ursula Lebioda said that this retail project will be like "filling in a missing piece to the puzzle."
"There is definitely a need for retail," she said. "We have places people can go to eat but we need more places for them to shop."
Ursula Lebioda said that revitalizing downtown would not be possible without the community coming together to make the vision a reality.
"It has taken the community as a whole to accept this vision and help make it work," she said. "This has been a community effort in getting this happening."
Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman said that the city is excited about this project and what it will do for the community.
"This lot has been empty for several years and building retail stores in that area will be a boom for our downtown and our existing downtown businesses, as it will bring more foot traffic to downtown," Hardman said.
Ursula Lebioda said that that the retail center project would be completed in the next eight months and they envision it to be filled with local businesses, but they haven't officially rented any spaces out yet.
"In the past we haven't had any trouble in finding the right people for the space," she said. "I have all the confidence these spaces will fill up fast with the right people."