Tuesday, March 5, 2024

City Council gives proposed Castle Street mixed-use development six more months to plan

A rendering of what the mixed-use development could look like at Castle Street (Port City Daily/Hipp Architecture)
A rendering of what the mixed-use development could look like at Castle Street. (Port City Daily/Hipp Architecture)

WILMINGTON — The proposed Castle Street development that would take over the former Wave Transit bus depot site has survived yet another round of City Council scrutiny and now has 120 days to bring back a viable plan for the development.

On Tuesday, the Wilmington City Council approved the development team’s request to consider the proposal and grant them the extension. The team consists of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, Hipp Architecture and Development, and the Cape Fear Community Land Trust.

Related — Mayor Bill Saffo: Castle Street plans have ‘changed 360 degrees’ from where they began

The decision as to what to do with the former Wave Transit site has been a topic of discussion for several years.

After more than 10 years of waiting for the Southside Community Development Corporation (CDC) to come up with a plan for the site, the city rescinded its offer to the group and started considering new options.

That’s when TRU Colors founder George Taylor decided he would like to secure the property as the site of his company’s brewery.

However, there was a problem with this plan, state law prohibits the outright sale of government property without an upset bid process, allowing everyone an equal chance to purchase the land. But municipalities can directly sell property (or donate it for that matter) to nonprofit groups with a public purpose.

That’s why Taylor started the offshoot group TRU Impact, a nonprofit group.

According to Taylor, “TRU Impact is a non-profit organization based in Wilmington NC committed to its mission of combatting street violence, generational poverty, and racial divisiveness across America. Tru Impact provides facilities and services to organizations that are executing at a high level in the areas that further the TRU Impact mission.”

He hoped to convince the City Council to sell, not donate, the property to his group in order to bypass the public upset bid process. Council seemed interested but ultimately decided to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to allow other interested parties to submit their plans.

Despite there being more than a dozen interested parties, only one proposal was submitted. That proposal was for what is tentatively known as Castle Place.

Development project

The project itself would consist of several different aspects including commercial and residential — in the form of affordable housing.

There are plenty of moving parts with three different groups involved in the project. In order to make the project a reality, the city would first convey the property to the Land Trust.

The Land Trust would then lease the property to the developer who would then construct the project. The developer would then sell the residential units to Habitat for Humanity who would, in turn, sell the units to homeowners.

City Council – in particular, Mayor Bill Saffo – voiced concerns about the financial cost of the project (which included federal funding that would be dispersed by the city to the development). However, after speaking to City Council, Steve Spain of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity along with other representatives of the development team, were granted 120 days to secure additional funding and submit feasible plans to the city.

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