Local Firm To Be Considered For Redevelopment Of Government Center

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 15, 2020
The New Hanover County Government Center could be transformed through a public-private partnership. (File photo)
For the potential redevelopment of New Hanover County Government Center off South College Road, county officials recommend that elected leaders move forward with a locally based development team.

The recommendation is part of the agenda, which was released Wednesday, for the Jan. 21 meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.

According to agenda documents, GHK Cape Fear/FD Stonewater of Wilmington was one of two groups that responded to the county's August request for qualifications for the potential public-private partnership (P3). The P3 would transform the former shopping mall into a project that would include new county offices and tax-generating, private facilities, such as those found in a mixed-use development.

The other respondent to the RFQ was Vermilion Campbell of Chicago.

"The evaluation team met to review and discuss the information shared by both firms and reached a unanimous consensus that, although both firms could perform the requested services, GHK Cape Fear /FD Stonewater proved to better understand the needs of the county," the agenda documents state. "They are also more familiar with the local commercial market needed to support the project, due to their local presence in our community.

"Therefore, the evaluation team recommends GHK Cape Fear /FD Stonewater as the preferred developer to enter into a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the programming needs of this project, with the understanding that if terms cannot be negotiated through this process, the county will terminate negotiations and move to the second firm, Vermilion Campbell, and begin negotiations."

If the Board of Commissioners agrees with the county staff's recommendation, the next step would be to "collaborate with the development team to complete a program assessment, formulate a development and management structure including the proposed funding structure of the projects, and begin preliminary design work for the project."

The agenda documents also state, "It is expected that contract negotiations would take place following a final program assessment and plan."

According to the agenda documents, the developer chosen would have exclusive negotiation rights from Jan. 22 to June 1.

GHK Cape Fear Development was established in 2015 as a partnership between G.H.K. Developments and Wilmington-based commercial real estate firm Cape Fear Commercial. In the potential MOU, the team is referred to as Cape Fear FD Stonewater LLC. Some of GHK Cape Fear's projects include One Midtown Apartments, Dungannon Village at Autumn Hall, Publix grocery stores and 101 N. Third St., an office building in downtown Wilmington.

The Government Center is made up of three pieces that total 136,654 square feet and 15 acres. County officials have said 30,000 square feet is currently unused space, and the center is in need of $20 million worth of maintenance over the next decade or so.

The facility used to be part of Marketplace Mall, but the county bought much of it in 2005 and renovated the space for county offices. The part of the former mall occupied by Ten Pin Alley, a bowling alley, and Breaktime Billiards does not belong to the county.

Read more about this project, and the future of public-private partnerships in the area, in the Jan. 17 print edition of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
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