SHALLOTTE — Shallotte’s decade-long plans to develop a riverfront town center are back on.
The town will submit an environmental permit this week to build a roughly quarter-mile riverwalk on its own– regardless of whether its new development partnership continues to run smoothly.
After going through what Shallotte Mayor Walt Eccard called a “breakup” with its first developer, a new team is on board to help the town realize its $98.6 million dreams.
“I have fallen completely and totally and madly in love with this land,” Eccard said Friday while walking the town’s nearly 17 acres of property abutting the Shallotte River.
It took five years and about $6.5 million for the small Brunswick County town to acquire over a dozen properties that connect its Town Hall to the river.
“A private developer wouldn’t be able to spend the time to acquire land like that,” Christy Raulli, NSV Development’s director of development, said. “I can’t understate the credit to the town for their forward thinking and vision. It was their idea. It was all their plan.”
Raulli’s team signed a development agreement to take over the Shallotte Riverfront Town Center Project in September 2018. The public-private agreement followed the town’s fallout with Durham-based TND Partners, who Eccard said had agreed to finance $7 million in water and sewer improvements according to the town’s 2015 request for proposals. About a year into the project, TND Partners told the town it couldn’t pay for those improvements.
Eccard said the town didn’t expect that. Last May, the town received a $2.1 million loan and $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help cover water and sewer expansion in the riverfront redevelopment area.
Now, the town will install the “backbone” of extending its water and sewer system to the riverfront development area. It won’t, however, fund each new connection needed once development moves ahead.
This week, Shallotte will submit a Coastal Area Management Act permit to construct its long-planned riverwalk that wraps around its town center. When Eccard worked in the planning department, he said he convinced the town to draft a vision plan. That 2008 Vision Plan imagined a “vibrant riverfront destination,” used as the basis for the town’s 2015 riverfront revitalization plans.
“We thought if we had a really nice plan someone would just come in and build it,” Eccard said.
The town hopes to eventually connect the Riverwalk to Mulberry Park, where it owns about 6 acres with riverfront access.
Unlike the first agreement, Shallotte decided it will finance the estimated $2.5 million riverwalk itself.
“We feel a sense of urgency of putting that in,” Eccard said. “And if we pay for it, then we can control it.”
According to a project update shared to the Shallotte Board of Alderman, NSV Development will purchase the town’s property for $5.6 million. Raulli said greenspace that may serve as a performance or public activity space, will remain with the town. Compared to previous plans, which Eccard described as “rustic,” NSV Development envisions a modern, but genuine-looking downtown center.
“What we’re trying to do here is build an authentic downtown. Not a private development that looks downtown,” Raulli said.
A hotel, restaurant, office, and residential space will fill an estimated 390,000 square feet of the project’s development. An estimated 712 parking spaces are needed for over two dozen planned buildings that will cost an estimated $69 million to construct.
“There isn’t like that place that’s the heart of the town. And Shallotte should have that,” Raulli said. “The population is there, the traffic is there — it was a really great vision I think on the part of the town to say that they needed this.”
Raulli said construction should start before summer 2020 and hopes businesses are open by summer 2021. “When you say I’m going to downtown Shallotte, this is what people will think of immediately.”
From the town’s side, costs aren’t an issue. Eccard said the board’s unified mission to complete the project helped keep expenses down for a decade. With an annual expense budget of about $6 million, Eccard said the town has consistently maintained a fund balance greater than 90 percent of expenditures.
“Twenty-five years ago, the town was in a position where they had to call the bank before they wrote a check,” Eccard said. Now, no loan is needed to complete the riverwalk. “I am confident we are going to get the riverwalk done.”
View NSV Development’s April 2 presentation, including renderings by Wilker Design Co., below:
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