We are blessed to live in a city with as much to offer as Wilmington, N.C. However, while there is much to be proud of, there are many key pieces that are imperative for ensuring we continue building a culturally diverse and vibrant growing city. This is why I am thrilled to offer my support for Project Grace, a partnership between New Hanover County (NHC), Cape Fear Development, LS3P and Monteith Construction.
Project Grace will play an essential role in New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington, further establishing the Cape Fear region as a hub of culture and business opportunities.
This transformative project will reinvigorate the Wilmington region and economy with its investment into an underutilized block of downtown land, ultimately providing much-needed funding into the arts and culture institutions of our area. The project will also draw a new retail consumer base and create numerous job opportunities.
Following a unanimous vote by county commissioners on August 7th, Project Grace is now awaiting approval by the Local Government Commission. The overwhelming show of support within the community speaks to the work that the development team did to educate the public and build awareness about the importance of, and need for, this project. The time is right for Project Grace to proceed.
Keeping taxpayers top of mind, the Project Grace team value engineered efficiencies to lower the overall cost of the project and plan to utilize some existing assets. They implemented a comprehensive and competitive bid process that reduced construction costs by $7,441,781. This is an amazing feat, considering the project maintained top-tier design, quality, and functionality.
The project will introduce spaces for living, dining, shopping, a state-of-the-art Cape Fear Museum, and a new flagship downtown library. It is truly the missing puzzle piece needed for the growth of downtown Wilmington.
Since I moved here, I have watched New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington flourish and our local governments and private sector work together. This is not the time to stop pushing for continued progress.There is a direct correlation between investments in cultural, arts and educational assets and surrounding economic growth within thriving cities. This is proven across the country and locally: Past impactful changes, such as the Live Oak Bank Amphitheatre and Wilson Center, injected life into Wilmington’s central business district. Surrounding restaurants, hotels and retailers benefitted immensely. A residential base that moved away from the city center in the 1950s and 1960s is now returning. A huge level of vibrancy returned to our city core, and we would be foolish not to continue to build on this momentum.
Through my twenty-five years as a chamber executive in Charlotte and now Wilmington, I have learned the value of looking toward the future. I have always been motivated by my desire to contribute to the success of a community, and I see the same values reflected in the team behind Project Grace. I’m encouraged by how this collaboration will continuously benefit our community and believe it will accelerate Wilmington’s momentum toward becoming a world class breakout city.
New Hanover County made the decision to pursue this project, based on a process that was deliberate, transparent, and well communicated. NHC is financially sound, enjoys an excellent credit rating and is capable of funding the project’s cost. NHC is not asking for a tax increase; to the contrary, our elected leaders recently reduced our property tax rate. It is my hope that the Local Government Commission will review and approve the debt issuance promptly, so that Project Grace can move forward for the betterment of our community.
Natalie English is president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.
Audrey Elsberry - Sep 22, 2023
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