Sunday, July 14, 2024

Wilmington approves Oleander project, one vote against to protest lack of affordable housing

Despite a favorable reception by council and neighboring businesses, one councilman took the opportunity to protest the city's overall lack of affordable and workplace housing.

The former Carmike Cinema on Oleander Drive has been dilapidated for years; a new proposal would redevelop it into a mixed-use project. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)
The former Carmike Cinema on Oleander Drive has been dilapidated for years; a new proposal would redevelop it into a mixed-use project. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council approved the rezoning of the long-abandoned Carmike Cinema on Oleander Drive to make way for a mixed-use development; one councilman voted against the project as a “statement” on the city’s “desperate need for affordable and workplace housing.”

The property has previously been considered by Walmart and a student housing project is now being developed by Evolve Companies (the developer behind Hawthorne Apartments around the area). The proposal would see three, 4-story buildings containing 5,600 square feet of commercial or office use and 223 residential units.

The redevelopment would close three driveways into the lot, including the one currently servicing Tidal Creek, Great Harvest Bread, and Wilmington Yoga Center. Those driveways would be replaced by a dedicated entrance with a traffic light, and a right turn entrance into the lot.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark and Michael Lee, attorney for Evolve Companies, noted that these improvements would allow for safe left turns (towards Wrightsville Beach) from the Tidal Creek area and also help control traffic speeds along the stretch of Oleander Drive in front of the development.

While several neighbors of the proposed project spoke about traffic concerns, Lee noted that the recently completed Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) shows traffic levels would hold steady with or without the redevelopment.

Hawthorne Drive, which sees frequent ambulance traffic from New Hanover Regional Medical Center, is expected to be reduced from level of service B to C, but this change will happen regardless of the Oleander project, Lee noted.

Related: Oleander Drive mixed-use development request would actually decrease traffic compared to by-right construction

The project will also provide bicycle and pedestrian access to River to the Sea Bikeway by way of French Road, a dirt road on the east side of the property.

Customers and employees of Tidal Creek market have long expressed concerns over the re-development of the neighboring lot, as it not only provides overflow parking for the co-op and its weekly farmers market but also includes part of the co-op’s community garden and outdoor seating and event area. However, the developer has committed both to allow continued access to the parking area and greenspace deck (which is actually slated for improvements alongside the redevelopment), according to Tidal Creek.

“[T]he developer has both personal and business interests in our complex, and therefore has a vested interest in the continued success of both Tidal Creek and the Wilmington Yoga Center,” according to Tidal Creek.

Protest Vote

City Council voted 5 – 1 to approve the project, with only Councilman Clifford Barnett voting against it (Councilman Neil Anderson was absent).

Barnett noted that, while he had no qualms with the Oleander project, he wanted to make a point of voting against it as a “statement” on the city’s lack of affordable and workplace housing. Barnett said he had spoken with Lee and confirmed that the planned residential units would not be affordable or student housing.

“This project does not displace anyone, yet I’m still so concerned — and so this is a strong reminder that we still have many Wilmingtonians that have been displaced and need appropriate places to live,” Barnett said.

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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