Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Riverlights looks to increase max units by 20%, add new commercial portion

Riverlights has been under construction for more than a decade after being annexed into the City of Wilmington in 2009. (Port City Daily photo/Staff)
Riverlights has been under construction for more than a decade after being annexed into the City of Wilmington in 2009. (Port City Daily photo/Staff)

WILMINGTON — Riverlights, a decade-long development project, is seeking approval to rezone a tract of its land in order to create a “mixed-use node” on the southern end of the 1,359-acre property.

Bordering the coast of the Cape Fear River in the southwestern area of Wilmington, the property was annexed into the City of Wilmington in 2009, and envisioned as a comprehensive living community, with residences and commercial facilities. Over the years, the development between Riverlights’ parent company, Newland, and the City of Wilmington has evolved. 

Related: RiverLights developer asks city council for 20-year extension on development agreement

If approved, the development will have increased its maximum allowable units first approved in 2009 by 46%. The current application would increase total units by 20% from the last increase, approved in 2013.

Initially, the development was allotted a maximum of 2,290 units. In 2013, the city council approved a modification to the agreement that allowed Riverlights to increase its total units to 2,790 “in exchange for a reduction in approved commercial square footage,” according to Riverlights’ most recent rezoning application. An unsigned agreement pre-dated November 2020 shows Riverlights is petitioning to again upgrade its residence capacity to 3,350 total units. 

The parcel of land Riverlights is seeking to rezone is a relatively small portion of its total property — 121 acres of the total 1,358.72. The company submitted a modification to its development agreement to the planning board, which heard the proposal on October 14, and will require final approval from city council. Riverlights notes in the application that an allowed rezoning would provide “a perfect opportunity to create a neighborhood commercial area for RiverLights and adjacent areas south and east in the City.” The company said that since the new project will be located close in proximity to many of its residences, having services in these locations “reduces travel time, reduces the number of roadway trips, and overall wear and tear on the street systems.” 

According to its submission to the planning board, Riverlights wants to replicate its Marina Village project. The Riverlights website states, “Marina Village could just as easily be called our town square. Our community hub. Our meet-your-friends-and-neighbors spot.” It includes commercial, entertainment and dining facilities, and is located in the property’s northern area. 

On the southern side, the tract of land the company wants to rezone  originally was billed as an area of predominantly single-family homes. A rezoning approval would allow Riverlights to construct another mixed-use facility that would be tailored to residents further away from the Marina Village complex. 

The mixed-use zoning that developers are seeking for the 120-acre parcel would require a minimum of three uses. A tentative RiverLights plan states that around 34% of the parcel would be dedicated to residences, 40% for commercial, and 26% for “institutional” space. 

The parcel up for rezoning “is envisioned to provide a mix of housing types, single-family for rent, multi-family — multi-story, assisted living facility, and possibly traditional single family,” the application noted. The parcel “also provides for neighborhood neighborhood retail such as a grocer, neighborhood market, personal services, and professional services.” 

The application also reveals the new project could involve some service-oriented retail and office space. 

Initially slated to finish construction 20 years after work began, Riverlights reset the 20-year timeline in a 2018 adaptation to its development agreement with the city. 


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