Members of the Wilmington City Council said Monday they want to sell a city-owned property on Castle Street, where efforts to move forward with a public-private redevelopment ended last year.
It’s well past time, some council members said, to let the property go and potentially use the proceeds to fund affordable housing programs.
The 1.5 acres at 1110 Castle St., a former Wave Transit maintenance facility with resulting contamination, could attract a high price in the area’s frenzied real estate market, officials said. The property has been sitting idle for 15 years, they said, and the two large bow-roof buildings on the property that were built in 1948 are hazardous and beyond repair.
“I just feel like we’ve made every effort there [for a city-involved redevelopment project],” said Margaret Haynes, mayor pro tem, during the Wilmington City Council’s agenda briefing Monday morning.
Echoing the sentiments of council members Charlie Rivenbark and Neil Anderson, she added, “I think at this point we ought to list it for sale as is … and if we can get some money out of that we ought to take that money and invest it in Eden Village,” a tiny home community that aims to provide housing for the homeless.
Later on during the meeting, Rivenbark said, “We should have sold this thing 10 or 15 years ago, instead of letting it sit and fall into disrepair.”
Mayor Bill Saffo said a developer would be able to handle the need to clean up the property, where something like a state brownfield agreement could mitigate their costs. He and Rivenbark, who both work in the real estate industry, have speculated that the property could fetch $1 million.
“We want to get the highest and full use and value for this property for the taxpayers of this community and then use that money and put it back into affordable housing programs that we are using as fast as we get the money,” Saffo said.
The city issued a request for proposals in April 2019 for 1110 Castle St. as a means of potentially aiding in the area's revitalization. But the only response to the RFP came from Wilmington-based Hipp Architecture & Development PC. The firm proposed a mixed-use project with some affordable housing and commercial space that could be used for community services.
Despite a little headway, the city and development team were unable to make any progress, and the Hipp proposal was eventually withdrawn
Business development company Genesis Block, co-founded by a Wilmington entrepreneurial couple, has been working on its own ideas for GIN at Castle, with “GIN” standing for "Genesis Innovation Neighborhood."
Girard Newkirk, CEO of Genesis Block, has said the GIN at Castle could turn 1110 Castle St. or another Castle Street space into a hub for inclusive entrepreneurship
, arts and entertainment, community spaces, dining and flexible housing options.
Newkirk said Monday that he and his wife, Genesis Block president and co-founder Tracey Newkirk, are still interested in working on the GIN at Castle.
“We have more options than before and new potential partners, so we’re on the hunt still,” Girard Newkirk said.
On the city’s end, the next step for 1110 Castle St. will include the city staff writing a resolution for a sealed bid sale, rather than an auction or upset bid process, said city spokeswoman Jennifer Dandron. A sealed bid, officials said Monday, would give the council the option to set a minimum price and accept the highest bid – or not accept any bids.
She said the timeline for bringing that resolution back to a future council meeting has not yet been set.