River Road has opened to the public after months of being closed for construction.
The thoroughfare, which is a main link between the City of Wilmington (including the port) and the southern part of New Hanover County, was realigned and repaved. Infrastructure and features such as street lights, which were not present on the old road, landscaped medians and traffic circles were added.
“This whole project has been a team effort,” said Livian Jones, vice president of operations of Newland Communities, which currently owns the road and will turn it back over to the city in a few months. “We’re excited about how River Road looks and hope everyone else is, too.”
Newland took control of redoing the road when it became part of their new 1400-acre mixed-used community, RiverLights, which will be built in the area surrounding the road. About 2,500 residential units will be built in the form of townhomes, condominiums, single-family homes (some reserved for citizens 55 and older) and multi-family homes, which according to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo would make it an even bigger community than Landfall.
“This will be the largest neighborhood in the city of Wilmington,” Saffo said. “It is going to be a magnificent neighborhood.”
In addition to access to the Cape Fear River through streets and multi-use trails, the development will also feature a 40-acre lake that will have kayaking and paddleboats available. A 3.5 mile trail will encircle the lake, and 8 miles of bike lanes will also go through the community. Some of those lanes have already been completed along River Road itself. There will also be public parks and a town green to allow people to take advantage of the outdoors.
“We want this community to have an active lifestyle,” Jones said.
Plans for a new school and fire station are also in the works. The first phase of the development’s construction, Marina Village, will be completed within the next few months. The mixed-use area, located off River Road near the intersection with Independence Boulevard, eventually will feature townhomes as well as restaurants, retail space and green space along the water.
While no homes have been built yet (Jones said the company will announce the builders, all with local ties, early next year), company and local officials were excited to open the heavily traveled street back up to motorists.
“We know it’s been an inconvenience, and we appreciate those who have been rerouting,” said Jones, who noted the developer was excited to open two days ahead of schedule despite all the rain delays over the last few months. “We’ve put a lot of thought and energy into what you see here today, and we hope you all enjoy it.”