WILMINGTON — A 6,500-square-foot “New American” restaurant concept could soon break ground and open by next year near Live Oak Bank’s campus. First, plans must earn approval from the city’s planning commission and council in the coming months.
Covey Property LLC is seeking a conditional rezoning to allow for its new eatery at the southeast corner of Independence Boulevard and Tiburon Drive. The neighborhood restaurant would seat 100 diners in the main room and lounge, plus 44 on the patio, at least 30 at the wine bar and more in a private dining space.
“‘Covey’ means ‘a group or gathering,’” according to the project narrative, submitted by the applicant Brandon Wilson. “That name was chosen because this restaurant is intended to be a neighborhood restaurant.”
Wilson declined to comment on the project at this time out of respect for the zoning process.
The address would be 1610 Tiburon Dr., a 3.29-acre vacant lot between Shipyard and Independence boulevards. Covey Property aims to get the green light from city council by May, start the 10-month construction by June and open its doors to diners by April 2023.
If built, the restaurant would operate Wednesday through Monday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It would close Tuesdays.
Presently owned by The Oleander Company Inc., the land is zoned for office and institutional uses, like banking or medical services. In 2017 it was conditionally rezoned as part of a group of parcels to expand Live Oak Bank’s office park.
The applicant argues the zoning is outdated for the area, considering the commercial centers and residential communities that have sprung up in its surroundings.
“The neighborhood is now a vibrant business hub with diverse residential living, but it lacks accessible dining for the residents and workers, and, in particular, has no dining within a reasonable walking distance,” according to the application.
Improved walkability is a city priority, the application points out. Residents of One Midtown Apartments would be able to reach Covey by the Cross City Trail.
Neighbors within 300 feet of the property were invited to a meeting held in late February to discuss the proposal. At least 20 people attended, not including those over Zoom who did not share contact information. According to the applicant, some were worried about noise, but the project is not intended for weddings or live music.
An architect reportedly told neighbors interior acoustics would limit exterior noise. To ease the minds of those concerned about a change in management, the project managers ensured it “has the backing of individuals strongly committed to this community and the project’s long-term success.”
On board with the development team are Peadon Finein Architecture, Monteith Construction and Norris Tunstall Consulting Engineers. Chip Mahan, the chairman and CEO at Live Oak Bank, is in on the venture as well.
The proposed restaurant is a little more than half the permitted square footage under the existing zoning. According to plans, they intend to “remove as few trees as possible” and “replant.” Mihaly Land Design is overseeing the landscaping.
The planning commission will recommend either approval or denial to the city council, and then the city council will make the final decision on the rezoning at a subsequent meeting.
The hearing is Wednesday, Apr. 6, at 6 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 102 North 3rd St. in Wilmington.
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