NHC to renovate old downtown office building

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The planned renovation of the six-story office building at 320 Chestnut Street downtown will be so extensive the result will, essentially, be a new structure.

That’s what New Hanover County staffers told the Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon after individual commissioners entertained demolition and rebuilding at a relatively small cost increase.

The board’s ultimate decision to renovate, at a cost not to exceed $10 million, followed a recommendation from New Hanover County Finance Director Lisa Wurtzbacher, who said the job would be thorough as well as expedient.

“We’ll be completely gutting” all six stories, Wurtzbacher told the commissioners, at a cost $3.14 million less than the price to raze the structure and completely reconstruct it.

Estimates she provided Monday put the rebuilding plan at $12.98 million, or $14.85 million if the county wished to add a seventh floor, which the commissioners discussed during a workshop last week.

The county’s demand for space was an impetus; the county has listed the offices of Public Defender, Guardian Ad Litem and the New Hanover County Register of Deeds, among others, as in need of room.

No one has occupied the building since water-leak damage it sustained in 2010, though the county had pulled out by 2006 in favor of new office space at the former Marketplace Mall off S. College Road, the property operating today as the New Hanover County Government Center.

Annual debt payments for the renovation will be $690,028 for 20 years, though the county does anticipate offsets from leases. After the renovation as much as 15,000 square feet could be available to outside parties, the county said, adding the City of Wilmington has expressed interest. On average, the county expects, on average, $78,750 in such revenues.

Total space at the renovated building would be 45,500 square feet.

After Commissioner Rick Catlin made the motion to renovate, Commissioner Brian Berger seconded, and the item passed unanimously.