Real Estate - Commercial

Local Retail Changes In Store

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 2, 2023
Crews work on the outside of Homesense at Hanover Center. The national retailer is occupying 24,000 square feet at the Oleander Drive shopping center. (Photo by Cece Nunn)
While new shopping centers are planned in areas outside the Port City, owners are adding to and revamping existing commercial complexes in Wilmington.

One of the most extensive projects, an exterior facade refresh for Hanover Center on Oleander Drive, is coming soon.

“Plans are underway with John Murray of BMH architecture and we expect to bid them later this year,” said Randy Kelley, of Wrightsville Beach-based Harbour Real Estate Partners, during an interview near the end of May. “The facade scope will be substantial, and our partners are extremely excited about it.”

Kelley’s firm is one of the owners of Hanover Center in a joint venture with ShopCore, part of The Blackstone Group. The center dates back to the 1950s and was the first shopping center in Wilmington.

He said the revamp “includes monument signage, facade and landscape.” Kelley said the center’s four towers will be modernized, including a consistent and updated paint scheme, replacing the standing-seam canopy, and updated soffits for a brighter feel. “The goal is to complete the work around the same time we stabilize our adjacent 262-unit apartment community, The Helmsman, mid-2024.”

Homesense is coming to 24,000 square feet in the former home of Stein Mart at 3501 Oleander Drive, which closed in 2020 after the clothing retailer declared bankruptcy.  

Homesense is a discount concept selling clothes and home decor. The remaining 13,000 square feet previously occupied by Stein Mart will be leased to one or more tenants.

Homesense will join Harris Teeter, O2 Fitness, Great Outdoor Provision Co., Hobby Lobby, Books-A-Million and Office Depot as major tenants at Hanover Center. 

Other recent tenants include Pedego Electric Bikes and Stretch Zone, a stretching studio that offers practitioner-assisted stretching sessions with patented equipment.

More businesses are coming to the center, where a new Drift coffee shop and cafe is expected to open in a 2,200-square-foot space formerly occupied by Antonio’s Pizza & Pasta.


At Mayfaire Town Center, crews have demolished the former restaurant building in front of The Fresh Market grocery store.

The long-vacant building was destroyed to make way for a new feature at the mixed-use center – an Element by Westin hotel.

CBL Properties (NYSE: CBL) and Vision Hospitality Group announced in January that they will build the 83,000-square-foot hotel at 1055 International Drive. The former restaurant building there previously held Main Street Brewing Co. and before that, Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill.

The 139-room Element by Westin hotel will mark the brand’s entrance into the Wilmington market, a news release stated. Construction on the project is expected to begin soon with an anticipated opening in spring 2024, the release stated. The hotel is being developed in a joint venture between CBL and Vision Hospitality. 

Five years ago, another restaurant building at Mayfaire was demolished to offer new space to potential tenants. A new building that took the former Macaroni Grill’s place holds a First Watch restaurant and Buff City Soap.


More shopping center options outside of Wilmington, where more space is available and the populations continue to grow, are on the way if plans come to fruition.

One example: A Florida-based developer is seeking approval from Pender County planning officials to develop a 42-acre center on U.S. 17 in Hampstead.

Tanner Postal Commercial Real Estate LLC applied to the county in March for the construction of a nearly 148,000-square-foot anchor tenant for the center. According to the county’s website as of press time May 30, approval was still pending.


At University Centre, off South College Road near the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a national fitness tenant is coming to space in the back of the center, while another large space could be opening up as a result of Bed Bath & Beyond announcing it had filed for bankruptcy in April. 

Nick Silivanch, a Wilmington-based commercial real estate broker who represents University Centre landlord SITE Centers, said he had no comment on the Bed Bath & Beyond space but said the center is nearly full with the national fitness tenant (as yet unannounced) coming to a separate space. 

Silivanch, a partner in Wilmington-based Eastern Carolinas Commercial Real Estate, said a national trend of local centers finding success as a result of increased traffic from remote workers is evident in Wilmington, as is a tendency to update aging centers.

Silivanch said, “Landlords are looking at, ‘What can we do to upgrade, what can we do to make them look better? How can we increase the shoppers’ and tenants’ experience so they want to keep coming back to the property?’"
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