Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Wilmington’s North Waterfront Park faces $1.7 million shortfall, city talks removing features

The project is once again over budget and city staff is planning on sending the project out to bid in multiple phases to get the best price --- but that comes with the cost of cutting features.

Plans for Riverfront Park are once again exceeding costs (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Plans for the North Waterfront Park on the Riverwalk are once again exceeding costs (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington is once again looking at ways to lower the costs at the North Waterfront Park and Live Nation Amphitheater, and that could mean cutting some of the features previously promised to residents.

The original budget for the park was $20 million, a hefty sum that was approved through a parks bond voters agreed to. Live Nation then agreed to put an additional $2 million towards the development, but now, thanks to rising costs, that will not be enough.

Amy Beatty, director of community services for the Parks and Recreation Department, explained to City Council on Monday where the budget is currently and what can be done.

When major projects like this are planned it is typical to put a cost escalator in with the budget, accounting for things like inflation due to the time the park will take to actually create — but in this case, costs rose even beyond estimates.

“We do put escalators in here [the budget] typically an escalator is around 3-4 percent but in the economy we’re seeing now, you’re seeing with some material types much higher escalators,” Beatty said.

Related: North Riverfront Park design firm tells Wilmington leaders costs need to be cut

This is not the first time the park’s costs have raised concerns for the city. In November of last year, the council received a similar presentation from the architect firm. During that presentation, City Council was presented with three options for design, the signature park, the aspirational park, and the essential park.

The aspirational park was the highest cost while the essential park was the cheapest, in the middle was the signature park which combined elements from both options.

“The aspirational park came in around $25 million, City Council did prefer the signature park project,” Beatty said.

The City has managed to get more money for the project including the additional $2 million promised by Live Nation as well as a corporate sponsorship naming rights program that has gained verbal commitments in the amount of around $600,000, she said.

Regardless, the city is still at a shortfall of about $1.7 million with current plans for the park.

But Beatty said there is a plan in place to help reduce some of these costs by putting the project out for bids.

The city has now put together two bid packages, the first being the site work and the stage, and the second being the park support building, back-of-house building, and concert venue restrooms.

In an effort to cut costs Beatty mentioned several items that could be cut from the signature park including a coastal walkway/boardwalk, an interactive water feature (splash pad), and wood accents on the stage. These items would be included in an ‘alternate bid’ however and could be added if they come in under budget.

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