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County To Unveil Potential Redevelopment Ideas For Downtown Property

By Cece Nunn, posted Jul 14, 2017
An illustration created by city of Wilmington staff members for a January presentation on Project Grace shows the potential for infill development at North Third, Chestnut and Grace streets.
On Monday, New Hanover County officials will share more details of a market analysis that has studied potential ways to redevelop a 3-acre, county-owned site in downtown Wilmington.

Also known as the library block, the study subject of what the county's calling Project Grace is bordered by Grace, Third, Chestnut and Second streets and includes the main branch of the New Hanover County Public Library. The site also holds the library’s Story Park, an EMS facility, a 650-space parking deck, the former county register of deeds office and three surface lots.

The board unanimously approved a contract in January with Wilmington Downtown Inc. and Benchmark Planning of Charlotte to create the study, site analysis and potential redevelopment scenarios. 

"The primary purpose of this study is to retain the library services on the site, and return the underutilized portion of the site to the private sector -- expanding the tax base," says a July 3 memo by Jennifer Rigby, the county's strategy and policy coordinator, included in the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners agenda documents for its meeting Monday.

The memo says the findings in the analysis indicate that the market capacity of the site could support 400 multi-family residential units, 25,000 square feet of retail space, up to 70,000 square feet of office space and a maximum of 100 hotel rooms.

That doesn't mean that's what, if anything, will be developed on the property, officials are quick to point out.

"The presentation scheduled for July 17th will include the findings from the market study and site analysis, and four development scenarios. It is important to understand these development scenarios serve as a framework for how the site could be developed," the memo says.

Rigby wrote that she recommends "looking at the scenarios based on the decision points or conditions that could be placed on the development."

Those potential decision points or conditions include: constructing a modern library, preserving green space, capturing the full market potential on the site, rezoning the site to increase height limits and constructing a modern Cape Fear Museum on the site, the memo says.

No other information about the market study and site analysis were available Friday because more detail will be shared during a presentation at the Board of Commissioners meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at the New Hanover County historic courthouse, 24 N. Third St.

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