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Real Estate - Commercial

City Puts $90M Northern Gateway Proposal On Hold

By Cece Nunn and Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 30, 2020
East West Partners' proposal to build a $90 million mixed-use project at the city of Wilmington's northern gateway is on hold, for now. (File rendering)
Work on a $90 million mixed-use development proposal for city-owned property in downtown Wilmington's northern gateway is on hold, for now, according to city officials.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, it is uncertain when the city will resume its exploration phase with East West Partners, said city spokesman Dylan Lee in an email this week. 

Chapel Hill-based East West Partners proposed a development that could bring residential units, retail space, a hotel, a visitors center and parking to several city-owned properties at 1020, 908 and 922 N. Front St. and 901 N. Third St.

The properties are situated on the northern side of the city, just off Third Street, the main thoroughfare coming into the city from the Isabel Holmes Bridge and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. 

The city last year called for proposals to develop the city-owned sites. East West Partners submitted the only proposal, which was approved by city council late last year to move into the exploration phase.

"We respect, under these unprecedented circumstances, the city's decision to delay further consideration of the Gateway project," said Lucien Ellison, development director for East West Partners, in an email.

East West Partners remains focused on the projects it has underway in Wilmington and looks forward to "pursuing Gateway when the city suggests it is time to do so," he said.

"At the rate we were going and the way the economy was humming, we were making pretty good progress," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said of the potential northern gateway project and others. "But then came this pandemic, and everything came to a standstill."

"I don't want to abandon this particular project, a viable project," Saffo said. "But at this point in time we have to put it on hold to focus on what we're trying to finish now."

One of those areas of focus for the developer is completing River Place, and for the city, Saffo said, it's dealing with a budget that will include a major revenue shortfall but has to be approved by city officials by June.

East West Partners is involved in a public-private partnership with the city of Wilmington to redevelop the old Water Street parking deck into River Place, a 13-story mixed-use development.

"River Place is on track for a 2020 opening, and we are eager to see the impact of our combined investment in downtown Wilmington," Ellison said. "Thereafter, we look forward to completion of the Gaylord Building on Front Street."

The Gaylord Building was bought by the firm in 2018 and is undergoing renovation to be turned into a co-working space.

"Together, these two projects," Ellison said, "will have a tremendous impact on downtown business and residential activity."
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