Student housing in a mixed-use development would replace a South Kerr Avenue shopping center under a proposal that city of Wilmington officials are expected to review soon.
In the plan, Kerr Station Village, home to Saigon Market for about two decades
, would be replaced by a 154-unit student housing community called Kerr Station Lofts. Saigon Market owner Lan Washington said Tuesday that she hopes by December to move her Asian grocery store to 831 S. Kerr Ave. at a nearby center, University Square Mall, where tenants include an Apple Annie's Bake Shop location.
With 470-480 student beds in two, four-story buildings, Kerr Station Lofts would also include 5,000 square feet of retail space for a potential restaurant, a coffee shop and/or other uses, said Andrew Weddle of development firm Weddle Real Estate Investments (WREI). Part of that space would also include professional offices.
"We are excited to create a unique, living-learning community where residents can walk to shop/dine and safely bike to school or to see friends living nearby," Weddle said in an email. "The city’s vast investment to improve Kerr Avenue will stimulate additional smart growth, mixed-use, infill developments in the near future."
A widening project under way by the N.C. Department of Transportation and the city's plans for a multi-use path on South Kerr Avenue, has helped lead WREI to plan Kerr Station Lofts, he said.
The property is currently under contract by the development group and would require a rezoning to an Office & Institutional designation, Weddle said. The rezoning request is expected to be considered by the Wilmington Planning Commission in December.
Also in the plan for Kerr Station Lofts is a pool and outdoor recreation area, clubhouse and amenity center. Half of the project will likely be four-bedroom apartments, while the rest would have one to two bedrooms, Weddle said.
"What we noticed is younger students like sometimes to live with more students, but when they get a little bit older, they kind of maybe want to live in a two-bedroom or maybe even a one-bedroom," he said. "We're changing the mix to accommodate the students as the students mature."
The plan for Kerr Station Lofts is the second student housing proposal to be submitted to the city this month. In another redevelopment project, an 899-bed community called The Hamilton has been proposed
at 815 S. College Road, close to the University of North Carolina Wilmington at the site of the former Kmart.
Weddle, who was involved in the development of the 168-unit rental community called Progess910 at 316 Marlboro St. near UNCW, said there's no doubt the university is growing. The total enrollment figure this fall for UNCW is 16,487 students, 3,000 more than the school had as of October 2010, according to UNCW Institutional Research and Planning records online.
As for the Kerr Avenue widening project, the work is currently halfway complete and expected to be done by the end of 2018, according to NCDOT officials Tuesday. Widening is complete from Randall Parkway to Market Street, and 75 percent of the drainage work is finished; next, crews will complete the widening from Market Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard from winter this year to summer of next year, and widening and drainage at Market Street is expected to take place in the summer of 2018.