Development interest and investment in downtown Wilmington are expected to be enhanced by the construction of North Waterfront Park, developers and brokers say.
The city scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon at the Harnett Street site of the 6.6-acre park along the Cape Fear River. The park will include a large concert venue, playground, splash pad, large plaza and trails and gardens, among other features.
“I have lists of people [potential commercial users] that want to put locations in that part of town because they know what’s going on across the street,” said Jeff Hovis, a broker and Realtor with Intracoastal Realty, who has numerous downtown Wilmington listings that include property near the park.
He added, “The park is like a major magnet for activity. People see it as being this new thing for Wilmington because we just don’t have something like that.”
The park is expected to cost more than $29 million, and Clancy & Theys Construction Co. is the general contractor.
According to the city of Wilmington, “Increases from the initial $20 million estimate are largely related to infrastructure and site improvements in and around the site, as well as construction cost inflation that has become more pronounced since Hurricane Florence.”
The park is expected to be ready for the 2021 concert season.
“North Waterfront Park will have a positive economic impact on downtown and the community. The amphitheater venue will bring both more shows and larger crowds to downtown, and event days will generate sales at nearby restaurants, shops, pubs and hotels,” said Ed Wolverton, president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. “With a vacant lot on the east side of the park, the park could serve as a catalyst to help attract more investment and jobs to the area.”
“Of course, the park will also improve the quality of life for nearby residents and workers who will be able to use and enjoy the green space on a daily basis," he added. "The park will also support the Riverwalk and serve as a gathering space for the entire community.”
Downtown's community is growing. The number of residents is expected to grow from 3,200 to about 6,100 by 2024 because of the number of housing units, including apartments, townhomes and condos, in plans or under construction. Those projects include River Place, a major mixed-use project that will have both condos and apartments.
“That amenity for downtown is great for developers," Lucien Ellison, senior managing partner with River Place development firm East West Partners, said of the park. "People are going to be really excited that they live right next door or in walking distance to the park, and now there’s going to be a lot of options for people to live in close proximity.”
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