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Wrightsville Avenue Property Swap Under Consideration

By Cece Nunn, posted Aug 1, 2017
Wilmington City Council will consider a property swap that would allow the ABC store on Wrightsville Avenue, shown Tuesday, to be moved to a new site on the same side of the avenue and expanded. (Photo by Cece Nunn)
Wilmington City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to support a proposed exchange of property between a developer planning a mixed-use project on Wrightsville Avenue and New Hanover County's ABC Board.

The transfer would allow a new ABC store to be built on the avenue and aid in the redevelopment of the former Galleria shopping center site in the 6800 block.

A resolution approved by the council Tuesday night authorizes Mayor Bill Saffo to enter into an interlocal agreement with the town of Wrightsville Beach that would facilitate the property swap and also ensure Wrightsville Beach continues to get ABC store disbursements. The Wrighstville Beach Board of Aldermen is expected to consider the agreement Aug. 10.

The exchange has to be authorized by a state law, something the N.C. General Assembly would likely consider during its next session.

Developer Jeff Kentner of State Street Companies proposed the change to allow Airlie at Wrightsville Sound, a proposed mixed-use community, to be developed to its fullest potential. The property exchange contemplates moving the ABC store from its current address at 6730 Wrightsville Ave. to a few hundred yards eastward, to property on the same side of Wrightsville Avenue.

Plans for Airlie at Wrightsville Sound, which is valued at greater than $180 million, include high-end single-family homes, a multifamily component, a hotel, office space, an athletic performance training center, numerous restaurants and convenience retail.

The change has been endorsed by the New Hanover County ABC Board and would allow the increasingly busy Wrightsville Avenue store to grow. Built in 2001, the store is 4,138 square feet, and although it is the third smallest ABC store in the county, it has grossed more than $4 million a year since 2014, said Marnina Queen, CEO of the New Hanover County ABC Board.

"We want a 6,500-square-foot store. The warehouse there is so small that lately with their increased sales, normally we deliver to a store once a week, and we’ve been having to deliver to them twice a week because they just don’t have room to hold what product they need," Queen explained.

The move would also more than double the store's parking spaces -- from less than a dozen at the current location to 25 at the new site, she said. 

Last fiscal year, which ended June 30, the New Hanover County ABC Board distributed $646,816 to the town of Wrightsville Beach, an increase of more than $71,000 over the previous fiscal year.

"With the proposed exchange, there would be a construction period during which the existing ABC Store would remain in its current location, which would then be within the City of Wilmington corporate limits. The shared proceeds from sales at that store, as a result of the store being located within the City of Wilmington, would be paid to the City. The proposed agreement recognizes Wrightsville Beach’s reliance on the income from the ABC Store and, as such, dictates that, during the construction period, the City of Wilmington will make payments to the Town of Wrightsville Beach commensurate with the amount of shared proceeds received by the City," states Cheatham's letter on the subject to the city council. "This is an unusual measure, but one that has been endorsed by the New Hanover County ABC Commission."

The N.C. ABC Commission is currently taking an in-depth look at the potential site for the new store, and Queen is making a presentation to the state commission on the proposal in September in Raleigh. If all the necessary steps are taken, Queen estimates the earliest the new store could be open would be by the end of next year.

This story has been updated from its original version.

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