Negotiations are underway to transform the Water Street parking deck into a mixed-use development in downtown Wilmington after City Council OK’d an agreement with East-West Partners on Tuesday night.
City Council approved a preliminary agreement with Chapel Hill-based East-West Partners, with the final agreement expected within six months, according to Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham.
In February, council selected East-West Partners to enter into negotiations with the city to replace the structure, which the city plans to demolish and replace with a mixed-use development with residential housing and public and private parking.
The city would sell air rights for development above the current structure, the cost of which will be determined by a city-approved appraiser, according to Malissa Talbert, spokeswoman for the city.
The total project cost is estimated at $68 million. The city was initially expected to pay $18.7 million, but Talbert said East-West Partners will provide a cost estimate for the city’s proposed investments within 180 days.
East-West Partners’ proposal includes 190 residential units, 225 private parking spaces and 280 public spaces, nearly 24,000 square feet of retail along Water Street and 6,300 square feet of retail along Bijou Park. The city would retain ownership of the parking deck and East-West would lease or purchase the private lots, Talbert said.
But at least one local group has taken issue with proposal, as well as the process.
Paul Lawler, a member of the Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW), said one of the group’s concerns is what the project will cost for city taxpayers, citing an expectation of $20 million from the city.
“Another concern was the loss of appealing design features,” Lawler said.
“Some other features are now unclear and might or might not have been changed. These points should be clarified. The East-West plans indicated that the project would consume some space on Water Street.”
According to Lawler, appraisals of the property “offered some startling information about the price of land.”
“Its value is tanking, according to the appraisal,” Lawler said. “The site was purchased for $4.7 million in 2007 and 2012. It is currently assessed by the county tax office at $3,326,000. The appraisals made for this project valued it at $2.5 million. That low value does not suggest that now is a good time to build apartments there.”
Cheatham said the redeveloped property would include parking for area businesses to grow, provide public space and pedestrian-friendly connectivity to Front Street and include privately owned residential and retail uses that would increase the tax base and “result in more people living downtown, which will stimulate further economic development.”