Monday, June 24, 2024

Mixed-use development, with 115 apartments, planned for Third and Fourth streets

A rendering of the Pearl II, slated for development at Third and Fourth streets. (Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — A mixed-use development slated for a busy intersection downtown was approved Thursday for another variance to city codes. 

This marks the third allowable alteration to the city’s typical standards to make way for a 64,000-square-foot project slated to be built between 3rd and 4th streets near the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

READ MORE: Developer plans to bring affordable apartments to downtown Wilmington with ‘The Pearl’

The Wilmington Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a parking structure be built within 20 feet of the right-of-way, not typically allowed.

Owner Michael Beckley is looking to add on to an apartment complex, The Pearl, built in 2019 and the Mini Pearl, completed in 2020 on South Fifth Avenue. He is expanding into the Pearl II, building a three-story, 50-foot tall residential and commercial complex, with parking on the ground floor. It will consist of 115 units.

Located on 1.4 acres at 716, 720, and 724 S. Fourth and 719 S. Third streets, the development will be broken into  24 studio apartments, 76 one-bedrooms and 15 two-bedrooms, along with 873 square feet of commercial space.

Since the property is a brownfields site, no residential uses can be built on the ground floor. Therefore, Beckley is proposing a 108-space parking lot be constructed under the building. It will provide ample parking for residents of the complex and additional parking opportunities for nearby neighbors.

“We have done several community meetings and one consensus from neighbors is there’s not enough parking, especially with Fifth Avenue becoming a two-year project, about to break ground,” Beckley told the Wilmington Board of Adjustment. 

ALSO: City to overhaul 15 blocks of 5th Ave in 2-year project

Land Development Code Section 18-340 states parking facilities shall not occupy the corner of a block for a distance of 35 feet, nor be located within 20 feet of a right-of-way.

The property, currently vacant after Beckley demolished the only residential building located there two weeks ago, sits very close to the rights-of-way on all three sides: Third, Fourth and Wooster streets. It’s located 0.2 miles from the on-ramp to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge

Zoning administrator Kathryn Thurston explained Wooster and Fourth streets do not currently connect and likely never will, based on feedback from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the topography of the site.

Therefore, Beckley said the 35-foot rule does not apply to that corner, but he will retain the 35-foot distance at Third and Wooster.

“It’s not necessarily a corner,” board member Patrick Moore agreed. “There’s no connection now or planned.”

Beckley is proposing a parking site that sits closer than 20 feet to the right-of-way; the structure will be tiered to limit soil disturbance.

Board member Scott Monroe said Beckley’s request meets the findings of fact: There would be a hardship given the restrictions of the property, including its configuration and brownfields contamination. He also noted the parking will be within the footprint of the building.

“It’s not pushing people onto the street and [is] supporting public safety,” he added.

In January, the board of adjustment granted a variance to Beckley to remove one specimen tree and to increase the allowable height of the structure. In the urban-mixed-use district, there’s a maximum allowable height of 45 feet. Beckley asked for a 5-foot, 8-inch variance since there is a grade change of more than 10 feet for the consolidated four parcels, which would result in height restrictions on the Third Street side.

At the same meeting, the board approved the removal of one 36-inch oak tree from the property; Beckley said it hampered continuous building and parking development.

Wednesday, Beckley also appeared before Wilmington’s Design Adjustment Committee, and received a variance for the 10% open space requirement.

“We’ve chosen a payment in lieu of open space for a zero lot line,” Beckley told the BOA.

He said the move allows adequate room for utility connections, trash, and roadway exits.

“We couldn’t come up with the space,” he explained.

Instead, he will pay 10% of the property’s assessed value of $330,000.

Three of the four parcels that will comprise Pearl II are already zoned UMX but one is residential.

Beckley’s proposal will be heard before the Wilmington Planning Commission May 3 for a conditional district rezoning to urban mixed-use.

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