Marilyn Costen skipped a grocery store trip to lie down on the couch in her Carolina Beach condo on April 2, 2021, because she wasn't feeling well. She couldn't have known she was about to feel a lot worse.
A little before 1 p.m., Costen awoke to flames shooting from her bedroom. Fearing for her life, Costen jumped from her second-story home to the ground, injuring her back and heel in the process.
Her building at the Paradise Cove condominium complex, 619 Spencer-Farlow Drive near Snow's Cut Bridge, burned to the ground.
So Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony at Paradise Cove, where crews will replace the 12-unit condo for Costen and other owners, was especially welcome.
"This is really kind of uplifting and I feel like we're on our way to getting a home rebuilt," Costen said Wednesday morning.
No one was killed in the blaze last year, although Costen wasn't the only resident injured. Investigators believe the fire was not purposely set but might have started in a common area, possibly when a lit cigarette made contact with mattresses.
The Paradise Cove owners association chose Mark Loudermilk Architecture to manage the project, which includes a $2.8 million construction contract. In addition to Mark Loudermilk, the design team is made up of RPA Engineering, Allen & Shariff and Benesch, and Wilmington-based Brawley is the general contractor.
Loudermilk said unlike the previous structure, the new building will include sprinkler heads in its common areas, in addition to those in the condo units.
"This building’s going to be much safer in all situations," having to adhere to newer code than when some of the units were built in the early 2000s, Loudermilk said
The outside will look the same as it did before, like the complex's existing buildings, and like its predecessor, will be all wood construction.
Loudermilk wanted to be involved in the project in part because he lives not far from Carolina Beach.
"It hits close to home when something burns down like that nearby," Loudermilk said. "Every time you go over that bridge, you look over and see those condos. When you looked over and saw them destroyed, you just felt for all the people that live there that were displaced. They probably lost all their memories."
Costen had lived in her Paradise Cove condo for 11 years before the fire but these days has been residing in a rental home on Myrtle Grove Road. She could be back in a rebuilt Paradise Cove condo by summer 2023, Loudermilk said.
Of the residents, he said, "They’re either living with relatives or leasing something else and that’s OK, but it’s not your home. That's why we held the groundbreaking – It was to give them a day to celebrate moving forward. They’re always going to have that bad memory, but now they can look forward."
Pictured above: Scott Kisthardt of Wilmington-based Brawley, the general contractor on the Paradise Cove condo complex rebuilding project, affixes a sign to a fence at the project site Wednesday.