Friday, January 21, 2022

North Waterfront Park design firm tells Wilmington leaders costs need to be cut

Many of the features originally proposed for the park are now pushing the project over budget. The city will have to scale back their aspirations --- or raise more money.

A rendering of the North Riverfront Park (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)
A rendering of the North Riverfront Park. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington made some big promises when it first presented its plans for the North Waterfront Park project — from water features to granite-lined curbs — but now, the city’s design partner Hargreaves Jones is looking for ways to cut costs on the park in order to stay within budget.

On Monday, City Council heard from Mary Lydecker of Hargreaves Jones on ways to reduce costs; the idea of a naming rights campaign was also introduced, an effort to get private donations to help fund the park.

Current aspirations for the park come in a cost of $25.3 million, but the city only allocated $20 million for the park from the 2016 Parks Bond, which taxpayers approved in the sum of $38 million meaning some costs have to be cut, or more money has to be found.

Lydecker proposed a total of 18 different design elements that could be changed, delayed, or eliminated to help reduce costs for the park. Some of these included the elimination of the great lawn seat wall and the Old Front Street retaining wall.

Other cost reductions include the changing of materials to less costly products, and a reduction of outdoor furniture to only accommodate 10 cafe table sets, she said.

One of the bigger cuts to the park was the suggestion of eliminating the box office where tickets would be sold for events.

“If you do away with the box office how are you going to sell tickets to 10,000 people for events,” Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes asked.

Lydecker indicated that there would be a temporary box office instead of a permanent one, but a permanent one could be phased in in the future.

The Signature Park

The $20 million originally designated for the park included soft costs like design, planning, and other items not included with the construction. If council were to approve the changes, and go with what Lydecker referred to as the “signature park” – which takes design elements from the more modest “essential park” and the more high-end “aspirational park” – the total cost would come in at $19.8 million, just under budget.

Not everybody was excited to see the proposed changes.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said he was worried the city would “value engineer this thing into mediocrity.”

Rivenbark asked how the new proposal had strayed so far from what was originally envisioned.

“When we were going through the committee and picking out all the things in this parks bond issued. We arrived at $20 million at this project, did we just pull that number out of the air … Just sitting here going through all those items, its almost like we are dumbing it down. I know that if it’s built to $15 million we will have a park and a concert venue, but its not what we sold when we were out there selling this and it’s not what I bought into,” Rivenbark said. “I am terribly disappointed to see this and I don’t know what happened but I am disappointed.”

Construction of the park is set to begin in 2019 and a final set of plans will likely be presented when decisions are made as to what features the city would like to see.


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