New Hanover County Commissioners Chairman Jonathan Barfield had three things on his mind during Tuesday’s ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony for the new and improved Carolina Beach oceanfront boardwalk–shagging to “Under the Boardwalk,” the sand between his toes and enjoying a Britt’s doughnut.
Barfield said he was “blown away” by the revamped boardwalk during Tuesday’s event, which drew a crowd of several hundred people.
Barfied and fellow county commissioners Beth Dawson and Skip Watkins were on hand for Tuesday’s ceremony as partners in the project, according to Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer. The county awarded the town a $500,000 grant to fund the $1.6 million overhaul. Barfield called the grant approval “a no brainer,” adding the revitalized boardwalk would benefit the entire county and the state.
Cramer said the boardwalk was “an iconic, vintage boardwalk like no other on the East Coast.”
“This is just the beginning of our plans to provide Carolina Beach residents and visitors with a new spin on the beach experience from the past,” Cramer said. “The most exciting thing to take place at Carolina Beach during the Great Depression was the construction of the boardwalk, which is now nationally recognized, so we are proud to help preserve its history today while making strides toward the future.”
Mayor Dan Wilcox thanked the various community groups that have been working on the project since 2008, when plans first took shape to reinvigorate the oceanfront boardwalk.
The boardwalk is 750 feet long, with 16-foot wide walkways that are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Five wooden paths to the beach strand are also ADA compliant, and the town will provide beach wheelchairs for residents or visitors who request one.
The boardwalk also features gazebos, swings, showers, landscaped coves and open space for music, art and other events.
Construction is now underway on a $15-18 million Hampton Inn and Suites at 1 Harper Ave. Carolina Beach Town Council approved a conditional use permit for the eight-story, 66,248-square-foot hotel in January 2014.
Constructing a hotel at the boardwalk site has been a priority of town council for years, and county officials cited potential room occupancy tax and property tax revenues from a future hotel when they approved a $500,000 grant for the town to update its boardwalk.
New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet described the proposal, which was approved in August 2013, as essentially a gift from the county to the town, without direct payback.
“This is a request for a $499,999 loan, in which the county would not directly be paid back any principal, but rather would be repaid through additional property tax revenues that it receives due to a new $14 million hotel being constructed near the boardwalk at Carolina Beach,” Coudriet said.
According to an economic impact study presented to town council in 2013, revenue from the hotel projected for the town over a 20-year period is $4.5 million, which includes revenue generated from construction.
“Once it is approved, it’s going to add tremendous value to that part of the county, in terms of the businesses that it will help and the downtown vitality that it will augment at Carolina Beach,” New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White said in 2013. “It will add to sales tax collection, room occupancy tax collection, and was just really a win-win for both governments to work together.”