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Plans for Portal
Development groups building new restaurant, residential subdivision
011107 PORTAL RESAURANT 1
With the familiar sight of Portal High School in the background, builders Corbin Crowe and Quinton Paquette, top, continue construction of Pepper Jacks Deli & Grill in Portal. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    According to Portal natives, Lee DeLoach and Marion Hulsey, it has been 35 years since a restaurant was built there.
    "The last dedicated restaurant building that was built here was the Tastee-Freeze in 1971," said DeLoach, Bulloch County's Probate Court Judge. "Before that, it was the City Cafe in 1940. Richard (Bowen), Marion, and I have been looking for a location to put a new restaurant in Portal for the last three years."
    With a little patience and perseverance, DeLoach and his partners were able to purchase land on the northern side of Highway 80 across the street from Portal High School. Construction has already begun on Pepper Jacks Deli and Grill.
    Bowen, who owns the Blimpie Subs and Salads Restaurant on Northside Drive, will serve as manager and operator of the restaurant.
    "Pepper Jacks is going to be a dine-in and drive-thru restaurant," Bowen said. "It is going to have a hot bar line as well as a deli line. It is going to be a hybrid between a Blimpies, Wendy's, and Cracker Barrel. We want to offer a little more than a fast food restaurant would normally offer."
    Hulsey, owner of Hulsey-Johnston, Inc. Appraisal Services in Statesboro, said his group hopes that construction will be completed in April.
    "Our projection was to be operational in March, but it looks more like mid April now," Hulsey said. "We are so excited to have everything coming together."
    Pepper Jacks isn't the only new development in a community that appeared to be immune to the record growth that has been occurring in Statesboro and the southern portions of Bulloch County. Local builder and developer, Danny Woodrum, is poised to begin site work on his company's newest residential project, North Fork subdivision on the Portal-Rocky Ford Road within the town's city limits.
    "As I builder and developer, I just felt like the time was right for subdivision development in the northern end of the county and that the need was there," Woodrum said. "This will provide young people with a nice place to live in this area."
    Woodrum said it took less than three months to have his North Fork subdivision approved by the city.
    "The city of Portal was very easy to work with," Woodrum said. "They were cooperative and excited about new home construction in the area. We are glad that things have worked out."
    North Fork will be developed in two phases. Woodrum said he will begin prepping the land for the 29 home sites in phase one next week with 30 homesites in phase two to follow.
    "I anticipate that the homes in North Fork will be 1400 to 1500 square feet," he said. "The subdivision will have street lights and paved streets. It is going to be very, very nice."
    Woodrum's company has developed other subdivisions in the county including Glen Oaks and Buckhead Plantation. Woodrum said the cost of the homes should be commensurate with similar subdivisions.
    "New homes cost $100 dollars a square foot or so," he said. "These aren't going to be any different. The land cost wasn't any less in Portal than in other parts of the county. The building quality will be the same as anywhere else so the prices will be the same as well. These will be high quality homes."
    Portal mayor, Larry Motes, said his community of an estimated 1200 residents needs new development to help insure that Portal public schools remain.
    "We need to bring in some new families and children so that our school system will be secure," Motes said. "Growth will help us to that."
    In addition to new families, Motes said that construction of a city sewer system is in the final planning stages and that sewer system should also bring additional growth.
    "Hopefully by this coming summer, construction on the first leg of a sewer system for Portal will begin," Motes said. "It is a $1.5 million dollar project that will be funded by the city's portion of the new SPLOST in addition to some grant money and other revenues."
    Motes said the new sewer will begin on the North side of Highway 80 at the intersection of Highway 80 and Portal Crossing and end near the intersection of Highway 80 and the Portal-Rocky Ford Road.
    "I hope that we will be able to get the schools on the system, but I am not sure that we will be able to do that at this time," he said. "However, we must remember that this is the first step in providing the infrastructure that we need."
    Other community leaders such as Don Berry, pastor of the Portal Baptist Church feel that the right type of growth can only benefit the community.
    "I really think there is a desire to see some growth here in Portal," Berry said. "There will always be some who don't want any change, but things like implementing a sewer system and adding some new businesses can help raise the quality of life for your citizens."
    "There are a lot of things that we are in need of here," Berry said. "For example, we don't have any doctors or dentists with offices here. I am hoping that the sewer system will be helpful in bring much needed services to our community."
    Local residents are also excited about the upcoming additions to their community.
    "I was born and raised in Portal and moved back there a year and a half ago," said Rhonda Busby, a mortgage consultant with Wachovia Bank in Statesboro. "When you are growing up, you can't wait to leave somewhere, but when you are grown, you can't wait to get back. That is how I feel about Portal."
    "That is why I am so glad that we are beginning to see some new development," she said. "This is a great place to live, we just need a few things."