Thursday, December 7, 2023

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity gives update on Castle Street project

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 — Affordable housing — it’s the foundation of the nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity, and while most people probably associate single-family homes with the organization, things are changing.

Anyone who has spent time in Wilmington likely has experienced mixed-use developments, for example, Mayfaire or The Pointe at Barclay. There are also several planned mixed-use developments, many of them within a small geographic area along Military Cutoff Road, including the Avenue, CenterPoint, Arboretum, and the Galleria.

The concept is simple and is often described (by developers usually) as places to ‘live, work, and play.’

These developments typically have a variety of different features —- from movie theaters to retail stores — but what is noticeably missing from them is affordable housing.

For example, at The Reserve at Mayfaire, a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment monthly rent ranges from $1,193 — $2,477.

And with the rising prices of land in Wilmington, construction costs on the rise, and a shortage of housing, it is no surprise that apartments at these locations are expensive.

Another mixed-use development, but this time, affordable

But Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity (CFHFH), along with a development team consisting of Hipp Architecture and Development, and the Cape Fear Community Land Trust, is working on changing the status quo and develop an affordable housing, mixed-use development.

While it is a departure from Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s usual projects, Steve Spain, executive director of CFHFH said the organization as a whole has completed similar projects in the past.

Affordable housing can sometimes have a negative connotation which is why the city has turned to the term ‘workforce housing,’ despite there being no discernible difference in meanings. Essentially, for housing to be affordable, a resident spends no more than 30% of their annual income on housing.

That is what Habitat for Humanity and the development team is hoping to provide at the now dilapidated, former Wave Transit bus depot.

The property itself is owned by the City of Wilmington, but if things go according to plans, the development team is hoping City Council donates it for the project.

At the most recent City Council meeting, leaders once again approved an extension for the developer for an additional 60 days to finalize plans. According to Spain, things have not changed much on CFHFH’s side of things, but the city did ask the group to consider adding even more affordable units in the project.

According to the City Council’s agenda, the development team has accomplished a good bit including:

  1. Secured investor funding
  2. Conducted community meeting
  3. Revised preliminary design to maximize new development capacity
  4. Presented to TRC
  5. Currently evaluating commercial tenants

After the 60 days, providing plans are complete, City Council will likely take a vote on approving or denying the project.

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