Saturday, July 2, 2022

Despite initial excitement over Castle Street property, Wilmington received only one proposal for the land

The property is located on Castle Street, and is a former WAVE Transit facility. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)
The property is located on Castle Street, and is a former WAVE Transit facility. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — Despite the initial brouhaha surrounding the announcement that the City of Wilmington would be considering proposals for the repurposing of the former WAVE Transit location on Castle Street, only one was actually submitted.

On Monday morning following City Council’s agenda briefing, council heard an update from city staff regarding the status of proposals for the property.

The fate of the now-defunct WAVE transit facility has been in question for some time now after the city previously agreed to donate the property Wilmington Southside Community Development Corporation more than a decade ago.

In August of last year city leaders agreed to move on from the previous agreement after no proposal or plans for the property ever materialized.

Tru Impact

Initial plans call for the renovation of the current buildings on the site followed by a dramatic enhancement and new construction that would include offices, a restaurant, and other amenities (Port City Daily/Courtesy TRU Impact)
Initial plans call for the renovation of the current buildings on the site followed by a dramatic enhancement and new construction that would include offices, a restaurant, and other amenities (Port City Daily/Courtesy TRU Impact)

When word got out that the property would possibly be sold or donated, Tru Colors founder George Taylor knew he wanted the property to become the new home to his brewery — but acquiring the lot would not be an easy task.

Because of state laws regarding the sale of publicly-owned property, the city would not be able to sell Taylor the land outright; instead, it would have to put the land up for auction and essentially see what the market would bear in terms of cost.

But if the city were to sell the land to a non-profit group it could do so without an upset bidding process.

In an effort to circumvent the public bidding process, Taylor formed a non-profit organization, Tru Impact, with a new mission but the same goal of acquiring the Castle Street property.

Related: TRU Colors founder creates nonprofit to bypass Wilmington bidding process for Castle Street property

The Wilmington City Council seemed receptive to Taylor’s plans for the property and Tru Impact; however, after much debate, the city decided to make a call for proposals for the property to allow others a chance to get the land.

The sole proposal

When the city put out the request for proposals (RFP) in April there were 17 different ‘interested parties’ and 13 attendees at ‘Viewing Day’ — but ultimately only one proposal was submitted.

Related: Resolution: City Council will give preference to developers offering affordable housing for Castle Street property

Because of the initial fanfare and interest in the property, staff asked those who turned down submitting proposals why they decided to walk away from the property.

According to Monday’s presentation, there were multiple challenges potential developers saw.

  • Workforce housing was not a viable option
  • The concept of housing and commercial together was not a viable option
  • Choosing to pursue other projects
  • Thought the city was only interested in proposals that included workforce housing.
  • There were concerns with the lack of commitment of resources for the project as well as a commercial anchor tenant.

While the city did say it would look favorably on proposals that included workforce housing, it was not the only requirement for the property, just a preference.

The one proposal the city did receive came from a development team consisting of Hipp Architecture and Development, Cape Fear Community Land Trust, and Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity.

The proposed use would consist of a mixed-use development with the current buildings be repurposed for commercial and possibly a co-working space. Three new buildings would then be constructed to include commercial uses on the ground and residential spaces above. As far as the city’s contribution to the project, it would be expected to donate the property to the developers, not sell it.

According to the presentation, the RFP does meet the vision the city had for the property and it would add to the much-needed workforce housing stock in the city.

According to Executive Director Steve Spain, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity “is involved in a proposed development there, where we would provide the affordable housing element. At this point, it is a very general proposal, as the City provided only a short period for the [request for proposal]. It is our hope that the Council will provide us with 90 days to flesh it out more before making any decisions.”

City Council did not have many questions for the proposal, especially since the project is in its infancy and Monday’s presentation was simply an update from staff. Council will likely see the item come up at future council meetings to further discuss and eventually vote on.

George Taylor did not respond to an email regarding his plans for the property or if he was even still interested in it since his proposal was not included in the RFPs.


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