Tuesday, May 24, 2022

New Hanover to hold public hearing on Government Center redevelopment project

New Hanover County Government Center
New Hanover County Government Center. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — Plans are slowly moving forward for a proposed redevelopment project for New Hanover County’s administrative buildings. The project, which would be a public-private development, was announced last year.

“The Government Center, located at 230 Government Center Drive in Wilmington, NC, was originally constructed as a retail shopping center in 1989 and the county bought and renovated the building beginning in 2002. Because of the age of the structure and amount of unusable and inefficient space that exists, it has become expensive to operate and will require a significant amount in additional maintenance and repair investments over the next 20 years,” according to a county press release.

If plans for the new development move forward the new space would include a larger emergency management center, a 911 center, affordable housing options, commercial space, and greenspace.

“I believe we have accomplished a development plan that is forward-thinking, focuses on the needs and safety of our employees, stewards tax payer resources effectively, and creates a purpose-designed facility that puts the customer’s experience at the heart of what we do,” said County Manager Chris Coudriet. “The conceptual design includes a ‘one-stop-shop’ for customers to arrive at the Government Center and be served all in one place, and creates a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations and 911 Center that is expanded based on our needs. This redevelopment project has the potential to ensure we have the best facility for New Hanover County to serve our residents every day and also respond to any and all emergencies – from storms to pandemics,” according to the county.

A public hearing will be held on June 15 and people can make comments in advance or in person.

“Public comments about the development agreement can be made in advance of the hearing by calling (910) 798-7411 or by emailing comments@nhcgov.com by 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 13. Comments made in advance will be shared during the hearing. In addition, public comments can be made in person at the board meeting on June 15. The location of the meeting and the format of in-person comments will be determined based on gathering restrictions due to COVID-19. The specific location and meeting details will be shared with the public closer to the meeting date,” according to the county.

While this is simply another step in a long process, if commissioners agree to the plan construction could likely start early next year.

“If Commissioners approve the development agreement in June, the next steps will be to finalize the building and site design, and complete preconstruction and permitting work. Groundbreaking for a new building would take place in January 2021,” according to the release.

The plan itself would ensure the county maintains ownership of the property where the new Government Center would be built and sell half of it for the mixed-use development.

“Under the proposed development agreement, the county would retain ownership of the land where a new Government Center would be built; and then sell the other half of the property (approximately 7.5 acres of the total 15.01 acres) to the developer – Cape Fear FD Stonewater, LLC – for approximately $5 million (at $15.28 per square foot) to construct a mixed-use residential and commercial development, according to the press release.

“The developer would finance, construct, and furnish the county’s Government Center and Emergency Operations/911 Center, and then the county would pay the developer approximately $4.5 million annually over 20 years. At the end of those 20 years, the county would own the building without any debt. In addition, the developer would invest at least $70 million in the phased, private development, which will generate annual county and city tax revenue of more than $730,000 initially with continued growth over time,” according to the county.

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