Wilmington City Council last week unanimously approved an ordinance to spend more than $330,000 to demolish four downtown buildings to ready the sites for future economic development purposes.
Roger Johnson, special assistant to Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham, who brought the issue to the floor on behalf Cheatham, said the buildings at 922 N. Front St., 908 N. Front St., 901 Third St. and 900 N. Second St. contain aging infrastructure, traces of asbestos and need to be leveled and graded for future uses.
The properties, all owned by the City of Wilmington, are across the street from the PPD building downtown.
“I find that this has not followed the usual economic development programs that we have in place,” Councilwoman Laura Padgett said. “I’m not sure how this happened or who’s making specific commitments, but I’m concerned there have been some skipped steps. We’re spending quite a bit of money getting this absolutely as ready as possible that there are other potential sites where the city could step in and do the same thing for other projects — that we may or may not own — and yet we have no policy or process to do that.
“So what we have here is a cart with no horse attached.”
Johnson said the buildings needed to be demolished “regardless of which particular developer has an interest in a particular site.”
“These buildings are aged, the infrastructure is aged, so regardless of what project ends up there, these particular buildings are impediments to future developments at these particular sites. It is staff’s recommendation that we demolish these buildings, regardless of what the intent is for, and prepare it for any such project that council so directs,” Johnson said.
Councilman Charlie Rivenbark asked Johnson if there was an instance he could think of where the city would pay to demolish a property the city didn’t own, to which Johnson replied there was no such instance.
To see the council’s proceedings over this ordinance, view the discussion on the City of Wilmington’s website.