Some readers on Facebook were shocked to see a recent picture of a crew tearing down the former Romano’s Macaroni Grill building at Mayfaire Town Center, asking why the restaurant space couldn’t be reused.
While reusing a vacant commercial building is often an option, there can be important reasons, local commercial building and real estate experts say, why it makes more sense to demolish certain structures, especially those with no historical significance.
“Buildings, a lot of times, have a life to them,” explained David F. Michael, vice president of project operations for Clancy & Theys, a construction company with a Wilmington division that has worked on numerous high-profile projects. In tear-down or major renovation cases, “they’ve outlived their lives,” he said.
It’s likely that the former Macaroni Grill building, a 6,500-square-foot structure built in 2004, didn’t fit the needs of potential new tenants. But officials with Mayfaire Town Center property owner CBL Properties declined to comment specifically on the purpose of the demolition.
“Our leasing team is working with a number of potential tenants to fill the parcel. However, we cannot make announcements until leases are signed,” said Paige Coniglio, specialty leasing manager and marketing director for Mayfaire, in an email April 4.
The Mayfaire building isn’t the only structure that’s recently been erased in Wilmington. Others are on the chopping block. The Sears store at The Collection at Independence (formerly Independence Mall) at 3500 Oleander Drive will be demolished as part of a mall redevelopment project that’s expected to add residential units, a hotel and medical office to the 44-acre site. Some parts of the mall that are indoors will be transformed for exterior-facing retail.
The aim is to create an experience in response to what shoppers are demanding these days, mall officials have said.
Eric Dinenberg, executive vice president of development, construction and operations for Rouse Properties, said at the 2018 Wilmington- Biz Conference and Expo on April 5, “We want to give you options. We want you to be able to experience the shopping center, The Collection at Independence, however you want to experience that. Maybe that’s inside the mall. Maybe that’s sitting outside and reading a book and not doing any shopping. Maybe it’s living there ... Whatever it is, we want to be your destination for that. And I think our plans reflect that,” he said.
He said, “The mall business … it’s changing. What’s not changing about the business is the land it sits on.”
That land can be worth more than its buildings.
“Typically what drives people to demolish something is the existing building is either outdated, or the land beneath it has become so valuable that it totally warrants redevelopment in relation to the improvement,” said Hansen Matthews, a partner in Wilmington-based commercial real estate firm Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co. “We’ve seen that for decades now.”
As an example, he cited old beach cottages at Wrightsville Beach.
Along those same lines, Michael said, “The location is so important. It’s more important than the building itself sometimes.”
Michael said people might see more demolition in coming years, particularly in New Hanover County, because of a lack of available land.
“We’re the second-smallest county in the state,” Michael said. ‘Our real estate’s becoming very limited, so you’re going to start seeing buildings go taller. When you see that piece of property that has a little one-story facility and the ordinance allows five stories, it’s very much worth tearing that building down and going five stories.”
Another partner at Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co., Steve Hall, explained that “Not every building on each piece of property is operating at its highest and best use. So when you’re looking at a piece of property, you’re asking, ‘What is its highest and best use? What can produce the most value on that property?”
He used the example of Bradley Creek Station, a 76,000-square-foot, three-story retail and office building that will replace aging structures on Oleander Drive.
Hall, who is the listing agent for Bradley Creek Station, said the project, under development by Steve Anderson and his son, Parker Anderson, will meet demand while also adding more value to the property.
The groundbreaking for Bradley Creek Station could take place by late fall or early winter of this year, Hall said. “Right now, it’s got two dilapidated old warehouse buildings that might draw $6 a foot rent at best,” Hall said, while a new development will command a higher rate and add tax value.
A demolition could be deemed more or less cost-effective in some cases because of local, state or federal regulations that might not have existed when the structure was built.
“There are certain times where a developer will stick with the footprint of a building because to build it back, they would have to change the location and that can be a hassle. It can cost them parking; it could trigger some other regulations that can be costly and time-consuming and really detract from the overall project,” said Matthews, using the example of the building at Hanover Center that houses the Talbot’s women’s clothing store. “They took the footprint of an old laundry mat and went in there and completely reconfigured it. They kept most of the outside walls but went in there and changed it into something that was nice and new.”
Christina Haley O’Neal contributed to this report.