A company is expected to build single-family homes on 17th and 18th streets after the New Hanover County ABC Board voted Wednesday to accept JEJ Investment LLC’s $237,000 bid for six parcels.
"We’re happy to have won the bid, and we’re going forward with single-family residential," said J. Larsen of JEJ Investments LLC on Thursday afternoon.
The purchase will be finalized at a later date, and JEJ Investments would need to get city approvals for its plans. The vacant parcels add up to about .6 of an acre and are near the recently revamped ABC store at 523 S. 17th St. in Wilmington. In 2007 and 2008, the board at the time paid nearly $1 million for the properties, which had homes on them then, according to New Hanover County property tax records.
Also at the time, the homes on the parcels were torn down along with some trees, angering neighbors and others in the community. Officials previously had plans to use the land to build an ABC headquarters. Now the ABC Board’s administrative complex is at 6009 Market St.
The decision by the board Wednesday disappointed some in the community, including Steve Spain, executive director of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity. He said he and other nonprofit organization leaders had hoped the parcels could be used to build affordable housing, especially after existing affordable homes there were torn down after the ABC Board purchased them.
“It’s not that important whether Habitat does it. It could be anybody who goes in there and restores it, but my concern from a Habitat point of view is it used to be affordable housing and we’d like to see, because it’s so hard to build affordable housing in this city anymore, that neighborhood restored to affordable housing,” Spain said.
Larsen said Thursday it's too early to say how single-family homes on the properties might be priced.
Spain spoke to the board Wednesday about his concerns before the panel voted unanimously to sell the properties to JEJ Investments LLC. According to the legal ads published about the sale, "A buyer’s due diligence period of up to 21 days will be afforded, with closing on or before 45 days thereafter."
Although the ABC Board's legal ads had been published since April, Spain said he found out about the sale too late, the day after the most recent 10-day upset bid period ended in May.
ABC Board Chairman Bob Martenis said Wednesday afternoon that the board chose to put the properties up for bid because the organization wasn’t going to use them “and it puts it back in the property tax rolls.”
In response to Spain’s concerns, he said, “We felt as a board that we gave everybody a fair chance to bid on it and they did not bid on it and came in after. It wouldn’t be fair to the other bidders if we took a bid at this point after it’s all over.”
Comparable pricing prepared for the ABC Board by Spruill Thompson, a broker with Wilmington-based Cape Fear Commercial, put the starting bid for the properties, at 501, 503, and 507 S. 17th St. and 502, 504 and 506 S. 18th St., at $186,000.
The board still owns other pieces of property in the area, some of which is used by a neighborhood church for parking. The board plans to use some of it for a potential expansion at its S. 17th Street store and additional store parking.
Local ABC officials are also considering a property swap involving the ABC store at 6730 Wrightsville Ave., a move that’s allowable under state statutes. The transaction would add an adjacent property to what’s already owned by State Street Companies on Wrightsville Avenue while giving the ABC board a site for a larger store.
At about 4,000 square feet, the Wrightsville Avenue store is currently one of the New Hanover County ABC Board’s smallest, “but we’re watching tourism growth in Wrightsville Beach and just residency in our community grow, so in order to keep up with that, it’s time for a bigger store in that area to make sure it’s supporting our customer base there,” said Marnina Queen, CEO of the New Hanover County ABC Board.