Thursday, April 18, 2024

​​Michael Jordan museum planned as part of Project Grace

County manager Chris Coudriet announced Thursday a Michael Jordan museum is being planned as part of Project Grace — a collaboration with the Jordan family. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti Willis)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — One Wilmington native revered as “the greatest basketball player of all time,” according to the NBA, could be honored as part of a new development that has broken ground in downtown Wilmington.

READ MORE: ‘We are all in’: Local developer commits to Project Grace 

New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet announced Thursday morning at Wilmington Business Journal’s Power Breakfast Series that a Michael Jordan museum is in the works. It will recognize the athlete’s achievements and be located at the corner of Third and Chestnut streets.

The stand-alone building will be part of Project Grace, a public-private partnership between Cape Fear Development and the county to combine the current library with the Cape Fear Museum. CFD will oversee a mixed-use component featuring retail, restaurants and residences as well.

“Would you believe me if I told you there was an opportunity or we could create a partnership that defines the journey, the hard work, the commitment that it takes to be the GOAT?” Coudriet asked an audience of 500 to a standing ovation after announcing the potential museum. “GOAT right, the greatest of all time — would you believe those things are possible in our community?” 

The county has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Jordan family to explore the museum in the coming year. It will highlight “the accomplishments and the legacy of what I think is one of the greatest stories in sports history,” Coudriet said at the breakfast.

The MOU will outline next steps of the planning phase, to include schematic design and operational details of the partnership, according to a county press release. Funding for this phase will be included as part of the overall Project Grace planning budget and is expected to occur in 2024.

The county did not address at the breakfast how much it could cost or who would foot the bill for the museum.

Currently, Jordan is honored in a permanent exhibit at the Cape Fear Museum, “Michael Jordan: Achieving Success,” installed in the 1980s; the county worked with the Jordan family to retrieve exhibit items. His name is also featured in the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery — a hands-on science exhibit in the museum, for students to learn about ecosystems and geology, weather, plants and animals.

“I would suggest don’t let the sun set today before you go to the Cape Fear Museum to see that and how it can translate into a new partnership,” Coudriet said.

While Jordan has a portion of I-40 named after him and his name appears at his alma mater, Laney High School, in the Michael Jordan Sports Complex, there isn’t a large-scale permanent recognition of him locally. This is despite the fact his illustrious basketball career began in Wilmington.

“Our community is steeped in history and while many famous families have roots here in New Hanover County, none are more notable than those connected to basketball’s biggest icon, Michael Jordan,” New Hanover County Commissioners released in a joint statement Thursday morning.

Jordan attended and played basketball at Laney High School in the 1970s and ‘80s before he went on to play at UNC Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels from 1981 to 1984, scoring an NCAA win. He then joined the NBA’s Chicago Bulls through 1993, before exiting to play for Major League Baseball for two years. Jordan returned to the courts in 1995 until 1998, overall winning six national championships with the Bulls. He also played for the Washington Wizards for three years in the early aughts before officially retiring from the game.

The player has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, United States Olympic Hall of Fame (he won two gold medals in 1984 and 1991), the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and FIBA Hall of Fame. Yet, he is absent from the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame.

After his basketball career ended, Jordan became the a co-owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets for 13 years before selling off his stake in August this year.

He also has funded numerous Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinics, including $7 million for two constructed in Charlotte in the last five years. The facilities are in partnership with Novant Health to serve the most at-risk populations with comprehensive primary care and mental health services.

In 2021, Jordan announced he would give $10.1 million to build two more clinics in Wilmington, currently under construction. They will be located at Greenfield and 15th streets and 30th Street and Princess Place Drive.

CATCH UP: Novant breaks ground on Wilmington’s first Michael Jordan clinic

ALSO: Second Michael Jordan clinic to serve Wilmington’s eastside community

The announcement of the museum dedicated to Jordan is a new addition in a long string of steps to bring Project Grace to fruition. Project Grace has been part of New Hanover County’s plans since 2017, though did not get the full go-ahead until its financing was narrowly approved by the Local Government Commission in September.

Originally conceived as a partnership between the county and Zimmer Development Group, Project Grace changed developer hands after the LGC denied its financing last year. Cape Fear Development took the reins in March.

In partnership with architect LS3P and construction team Monteith, Cape Fear Development was able to tweak the plans and the county said it’s saving taxpayers $4.6 million from the original concept. The overall cost for the combined 95,000-square-foot library and museum is $57 million, financed by the county.

The redevelopment will take place in a 3-acre block along Grace Street, between Second and Third streets in downtown Wilmington. Crews broke ground last month, razing the Borst Building at the beginning of December, which is where the new combined library and museum will be built.

Thereafter, the current library will be demolished to make way for private development. The county will sell the southern parcel of the block to Cape Fear Development for no less than $3.5 million. The developer has committed to infusing $30 million toward the private mixed-use project.

[Ed. note: The article has been updated to correct Coudriet’s quote: “Would you believe me if I told you there was an opportunity or we could create a partnership that defines the journey, the hard work, the commitment that it takes to be the GOAT?” PCD regrets the error.]


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