According to the 2004 U.S. Census, Roanoke Rapids in North Carolina was cited as the new “Micropolitan area” — or economic hub for the region. The city of 17,000 residents, located just south of the North Carolina/Virginia border, is trying to capitalize on its proximity to Interstate 95 and market itself as a tourist destination for both out-of-state travelers and for other North Carolinians.

The Carolina Crossroads Music & Entertainment District, a $129 million project anchored by the 40,000-square-foot, 1,500-seat Roanoke Rapids Theater, is a major piece of that project. The city itself helped finance construction of the $13 million theater in 2006 at a site located just off the Interstate.

The venue has already hosted performances by nationally recognized country, rock, and gospel musicians, traveling productions of Broadway shows and numerous other theatrical acts.

The city also spent $6 million on infrastructure to support the entertainment district, which draws patrons from the estimated 100,000 people who travel on Interstate 95 each day.

Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga., is the development and leasing partner for Carolina Crossroads.

Phase One of the project, scheduled to be completed in 2011, is under development and its owners control a thousand acres of adjoining land already zoned for retail development.

Plans call for Carolina Crossroads to have 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, including a 17,000-square-foot DeVitto's Rotisserie Bar & Grille, complete with a stage for live entertainment. Also planned are 300,000 square feet of retail for outlet stores. Specialty retail will include an ice cream shop and an “olde time” photo shop.

Additionally, three out parcels have been presold to restaurant groups and the owners are marketing sites fronting Highway 125. A 147-room Hilton Garden Inn, at the entrance to the entertainment complex, opened last June. The $16 million hotel was developed by B&C Southeast Hospitality.