New Hanover County officials are considering the construction of a new government center through a public-private partnership that could bring together private residential and/or commercial development.
The redevelopment project would involve erecting a new building at the current government center at 230 Government Center Drive off South College Road, according to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners agenda for Monday.
A new center is needed because the current location is “halfway through its useful life,” stated the agenda item.
The government center was previously a shopping center that was acquired and renovated for $18.6 million by the county in 2002. The facility will require an additional $20.3 million in repairs and upgrades over the next 20 years, according to the county.
The center is 135,000 square feet, 35,000 of which is unused, said County Manager Chris Coudriet.
“A critical need exists for a purpose-designed county administration building fully compliant with current building codes, functionality, public safety, storm resiliency [and] maintenance needs and designed to be customer-centered and customer-focused,” stated the agenda item.
If commissioners decide to move forward with the redevelopment plans, the project could include residential, commercial or a mix of uses, Coudriet said.
“We can rebuild a government center and have a private partnership whereby there is some form of private development, taxable revenue to come to the community as a whole," Coudriet said. "That can be a variety of things: it can be a mixed-use site, it can be all commercial, it can be residential, commercial and office. We have no limitation on what perhaps could be here in a compatible way.”
Because the center is located in a federal Opportunity Zone, a public-private partnership would be a good fit, Coudriet said.
"This particular tract sits in what is known as a federal Opportunity Zone," Coudriet said. "It encourages private developers to make investments in these areas, and the fact that we have a critical need and the fact that this is an opportunity zone strikes us that it might make for a perfect public-private partnership."
While not extensive, Hurricane Florence did cause some damage to the government center building, and its high ceilings and skylights make it vulnerable to storms, Coudriet said.
He said the new government center building would be resilient and be able to house the Emergency Operations Center and 911 Center.
For the new center, the county would issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) for private developers to submit for a county administrative building and private development consisting of commercial, business and residential uses consistent with the city of Wilmington development goals.
If the board moves forward with the project, a request would be developed by the county over the next several weeks. Proposals would be expected to come back October to November for the board to review in a November to December timeframe, Coudriet said.
If there is a residential component in the new center, it would be wise for the county to recommend that some portion of residential development include affordable housing, Coudriet said.
Through its RFQ, the county might ask developers to outline their past experience in developing affordable housing, he said.
One requirement for proposals would be that the government center remains onsite and operational while construction is taking place.
County officials discussed the idea at a media roundtable Thursday afternoon.
The Board of Commissioners will consider a resolution for the government center redevelopment project, which is recommended by County Manager Chris Coudriet, at its meeting at 4 p.m. Monday in Suite 135 at 230 Government Center Drive.