Taking advantage of falling interest rates, New Hanover County revises financing for new government center

This exterior design rendering shows the proposed, four-floor, “open concept” government center office building with a park out front. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – As interest rates for county borrowings continue to decline, New Hanover is looking to finance its new government center through public debt rather than leasing the future building from the developer as it originally agreed to.

In June the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a development agreement with Wilmington-based Cape Fear FD Stonewater, LLC for the project. In that contract, the county agreed to lease the constructed facility from the developer.

Related: Two development projects in the county score wins at board of commissioners meeting


The county now is looking to revise the deal to enter into a 20-year public debt to pay for the upgraded complex. Cape Fear FD would still manage the construction.

New Hanover County Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wurtzbacher said the county rediscussed the deal with the developer with consultation from the Local Government Commission.

“Interest rates for county borrowings have continued to drop, so the county will issue its own debt and finance the construction for the new government center building, and in doing so allow for cost savings for the county and our taxpayers,” Wurtzbacher said in a news release.

The cost of the project would decrease from $49 million to $45.9 million.

On half of the lot’s 15 acres, the county would retain ownership where the center is. The other 7.5 acres would be sold to the developer at the appraised price of $8.84 per square foot to build a mixed-use residential and commercial development, according to the release.

First purchased by the county in 2002 and later renovated, the current government center is an original 1989 single-story shopping mall that requires extensive repairs due to its age.

The plan for the redevelopment includes a four-floor, 100,000-square-foot office building, designed to be a “one-stop shop” for residents, and a 25,000-square-foot 911 and emergency operations center. The center needs to be three times larger than it is now to accommodate the necessary staff in the case of a disaster, according to the county.

“Once our new building is finished, we will have a purpose-designed and built facility that will meet our customers’ needs now and in the future,” County Manager Chris Coudriet said in a June 16 news release. “A park will also be added adjacent to our building that will be a welcome community gathering space, and then the mixed-use phases will begin. So there will be a lot of activity on our site for the next several years, but I believe the end result will bring tremendous opportunities for our county and our community for years to come.”

The county anticipates ground will break for the project in February. While work is ongoing, county employees will continue providing services in the existing building. The new facility is expected to be move-in ready by summer 2022.

The board of commissioners will hold a public hearing on the revised development agreement during its Jan. 19 regular meeting in the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 24 North Third St., Room 301.

Residents can watch the meeting online on NHCTV and on cable stations Spectrum channel 13 and Charter channel 5.

Public comments can either be made in person or emailed to comments@nhcgov.com by 8 a.m. the day of the meeting.


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