WILMINGTON — After purchasing a $4.8 million downtown building last month, the city has decided to raze it but is tight-lipped on what will become of the space.
On Jan. 10, Wilmington City Council unanimously approved the purchase of 820 N. Second Street, previously owned by the Salvation Army. At the time, economic development director Aubrey Parsley said it would add another asset to the city’s portfolio for future growth.
City spokesperson Jerod Patterson told Port City Daily Thursday the dual purpose of the purchase was to allow the Salvation Army to move forward with building its new community center off Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
The city closed on the Second Street property in January — and for the second time in more than 40 years. The city once owned the 1.89-acre lot in 1977, and as part of its Redevelopment Plan for the Waterfront Urban Renewal Area put up the property for sale via sealed bid. The Salvation Army was awarded the buy for $47,822.
The city released a request for proposals Wednesday for demolition services on the three structures that make up Salvation Army’s campus. Interested companies must apply by March 24, and city council will award the contract April 18.
Patterson explained the city chose to demolish the building rather than remediate: “Beyond the problems posed by the age and condition of the structure, it is also not compatible with development patterns in that part of downtown.”
The demolition work will include knocking down 23,929 square feet of buildings — made of masonry block and brick with steel beams supporting the roof — constructed in the 1980s.
The single-story 4,720-square-foot retail center and 9,770-square-foot warehouse — including a loading dock and paved parking area — were built in 1981. The 9,439-square-foot shelter, which includes offices, a commercial kitchen and restrooms, was added on six years later.
The building faces significant damage from Hurricane Florence, which Salvation Army director Maj. Ken Morris told PCD in November was just one of the reasons for offloading the property. The other was the insufficient space and amenities.
An environmental assessment was done in March 2019 by Right Angle Engineering and showed the property does not pose any potential hazards or contamination.
According to the RFP, the city is requesting its chosen contractor to leave behind any asphalt, concrete paving and concrete foundations. It also explicitly states not to remove the fencing along the perimeter of the property. Once the buildings are removed, the contractor is expected to install additional fencing around the lot to secure it until its future use.
All other materials considered of value would be the property of the contractor.
All mature trees should be left in place.
Once demolition services are completed, with a maximum timeline of three months from starting, Patterson said city council will provide guidance on next steps. The city does not intend to use the site for its own purposes, rather redevelop it as consistent with its goals. One example is within the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan, with a focus on infill and redevelopment.
“The intent is to allow for economic development that complements the wider redevelopment taking place throughout the city’s downtown,” Patterson said. “The property is adjacent to the future gateway development, so the former Salvation Army site could further enhance growing opportunities to live, work, shop, dine, and play in the heart of Wilmington’s downtown.”
The Gateway project is underway by East West Partners to redevelop land along the riverfront, considered “the gateway” for visitors to downtown. There are still no solidified plans for the mixed-use development, but the area consists of roughly 8 acres around the PPD building.
The Salvation Army land is bordered by a vacant lot to the north — 1.24 acres also owned by the city — the Second Street roadway to the west, North Third to the east and a Cape Fear Community College facility to the south, in close proximity to the Thermo Fisher/PPD building under consideration for purchase by the city. Two vacant parcels to the north and south of Thermo Fisher would come in the PPD purchase, which city manager Tony Caudle said last month at a city meeting he has been eyeing for years.
“Frankly, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for years to be able to do a public-private partnership,” he said.
The Salvation Army has temporarily relocated its services to the Harrelson Center to retain downtown access to its programs. The shelter will close May 1. Construction on its new 22-acre campus, to be built in phases, still does not have a start date.
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