Real Estate - Commercial

River Place Developer Announces Local Leadership Change

By Cece Nunn, posted Nov 8, 2021
Lucien Ellison
The Wilmington-based senior managing partner for River Place's development company, Lucien Ellison, is leaving his position at the firm.

East West Partners founder Roger Perry said in an email that the Chapel Hill-based company is "sorry to announce Lucien’s pending departure ...  At the same time, we are very happy and excited for Lucien, Jane, and their family as they embark on a great new adventure," including splitting time between the Wilmington area and Costa Rica, where Ellison's son is enrolling in the Costa Rica International Academy.

McKay Siegel (pictured below) is taking Ellison's place leading area projects, including the city of Wilmington's Northern Gateway redevelopment and Project Indigo, a more than $565 million proposal, with partner Bald Head Island Ltd., on 400 acres west of downtown Southport.

The Northern Gateway project, which could include res­idential units, retail space, a hotel, a grocery store, a visitors center and parking decks at the northern entrance to downtown Wilmington, was put on hold as a result of the pandemic. But officials are shaking off the dust on the proposal, and Siegel said Monday that the company is working on site plans.

"Fortunately for all of us, Lucien identified and nurtured the great talent he saw in McKay Siegel," Perry wrote in his letter about Lucien's departure. "McKay’s very high standard of excellence was on full display in the renovation of 226 Front Street [in downtown Wilmington], now known as Common Desk. McKay, while immersed in the construction of River Place, took the lead on 226, seizing the opportunity to be a creative problem solver, while respecting the building’s history and architecture. The result is a stunning balance that is both mindful and modern, with occupancy already outpacing projections."

Siegel, a Carolina Beach resident, said Monday that he and his wife are both involved in area real estate. He said they "believe in the Wilmington real estate market and appreciate the way the city is growing."

Siegel said the change does not have anything to do with the defects that had to be mitigated at River Place, a 13-story mixed-use development in downtown Wilmington. Perry said in an October Business Journal article that the remediation process for those defects is complete. 

Ellison and the Ellison family business "will continue to be our investment partners in many East West deals," Perry said in the recent email.

He said East West's success in the area "is in no small part due to the leadership and hard work of Lucien Ellison. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Lucien easily recognizes his good instincts and sound judgment. His impeccable values and integrity have represented our company well and established East West Partners as a reliable, high-quality developer." 

Taking Ellison's place, Siegel will also be leading an East West apartment proposal on Oleander Drive. 

"Indeed, McKay has proven his ability to lead significant and complicated projects," Perry said. "And we are delighted that having worked so closely with Lucien, McKay can now step into the role of market partner, allowing East West Partners to continue the momentum we have enjoyed over these past six years."
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