Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The North Waterfront Park groundbreaking is Monday, here’s a look back at the project’s rocky start

The North Waterfront Park project will be delayed until 2021 now (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
The North Waterfront Park project is breaking ground on Monday. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — It is one of the City of Wilmington’s biggest projects of the past decade — North Waterfront Park.

It will be the new home to an amphitheater which will be managed by Live Nation, and after plenty of setbacks, the city is finally ready to break ground on the project.

The cost: $29 million.

That is nearly $10 million more than what voters approved in the 2016 Parks Bond for the park. The cost increases can be attributed to several factors including overly-optimistic construction cost estimates and betting on an economic downturn (which would lower construction rates) that has failed to come to fruition.

“Increases from the initial $20 million estimate are largely related to infrastructure and site improvements in and around the site, as well as construction cost inflation that has become more pronounced since Hurricane Florence,” according to the City of Wilmington.

Construction was supposed to begin in late 2018, but budget concerns, storms, and designing the park to fit the needs of the city delayed that.

As the groundbreaking approaches, take a look at what exactly has changed, what is staying the same, and what questions remain.

The Park

The North Waterfront Park is not only an event venue for Live Nation, it will also serve as a public park when it is not being used for concerts.

According to the city, the following amenities will be included in the initial design (which is scheduled to be ready for the 2021 concert season).

  • Greenspace & lawns
  • A large concert venue & festival space
  • Shade trees
  • Playground
  • Splash Pad
  • Large plaza
  • Trails
  • Gardens
  • Natural areas

What’s changed?

A list of items the design company for the North Waterfront Park suggested ‘value engineering’ last year (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

Firstly, the date of opening has been pushed back to 2021 since construction has still yet to commence. Originally, the park was supposed to be ready by 2020, but due to the issues previously listed, that has been delayed.

Park amenities have also been ‘value engineered’ to help reduce costs. This means cutting pieces of the park in order to save money. For example, instead of installing granite curbs, the city could opt to install basic concrete curbs throughout the park.

When the design company for the park Hargraves Jones presented the city with plans for North Waterfront Park, they offered three different options.

The aspirational park, the essential park, and the signature park.

A presentation from Hargreaves Jones shows how they planned on reducing costs but changing design aspects of the aspirational park (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

The aspirational park was estimated to cost $25 million in 2018 and included the best of the best when it came to amenities and materials used. The essential park came in under budget at $16 million and only included the basic necessities for the venue, while the signature park included most of the features promised with some ‘value engineered’ aspects.

But just one year later, the city agreed to spend $29 million for the park while still not getting everything promised in the aspirational park (which, again, was only estimated to cost $25 million).

The city has agreed to cut both the public dock area as well as the public art aspect of the park stating these items can be added at a later date.

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