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Real Estate - Commercial

Downtown Building Proposed To Be Rehabbed For WMPO Office

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 27, 2019
City council members could take action next week that would allow for the rehabilitation of a vacant, city-owned building on North Fourth Street.

The building, located at 525 N. Fourth St., is proposed to become offices for the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO). The estimated cost to rehabilitate the building, which formerly housed Thomas Grocery, is $1.7 million.

Approval by council at its meeting Tuesday would authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement with the NCDOT for this project. The vote would appropriate nearly $1.4 million in NCDOT funding for the proposed office space.

The city has also committed $340,000 for the local match.

"Sufficient funding exists in the city’s project (Multi-modal Transportation Facility) to provide the local match," city documents state.

NCDOT conveyed the property to the city Jan. 30, 2017, stated city documents.

The project is related to the next phase of the Wilmington Multi-Modal Transportation Center project, according to the city. The multi-modal transportation center is set to be completed in mid-November, said Albert Eby, executive director of the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which operates as Wave Transit.

The center is under construction between North Third and Fourth streets and Red Cross and Hanover streets. When complete, the project will house Wave Transit administration offices and provide spaces for buses. The location will replace the existing on-street transfer location at Second and Princess streets.

The funds are required to be used for a transportation purpose and necessary for the rehabilitation project, said Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the WMPO.

"Because we are a transportation agency the movement of our offices with meet that purpose," he said.

The two-story brick building was damaged by Hurricane Florence last year, Kozlosky said. The late 1800s structure is about 4,000 square feet. It's also near an old railroad bed in northern downtown.

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment toward the rehabilitation of historic buildings in Wilmington," he said, adding that it will continue to be owned by the city.

The Neuwirth Building, part of the first phase of the multi-modal project that will house Wave offices, also went through a stabilization and is in the final stretch of renovation.

Andrew Consulting Engineers has been hired to develop stabilization plans for the old Thomas Grocery structure. The rehabilitation portion of the project, which will establish WMPO's offices, will use the NCDOT funding and match from the city.

“We saw the ability to move our office space to that location and so we worked with the city manager’s office to make that happen. What it does is it gives us a face outside of the city. Because we serve not only the city but our other member jurisdictions,” Kozlosky said.

The WMPO serves seven municipalities, all of New Hanover County and portions of Brunswick and Pender counties. The organization has not established a timeline for construction, however, Kozlosky said he feels the project could be completed in about two years if it moves forward with city approval.
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