WILMINGTON — Despite Covid-19 causing lumber shortage and slowing down progress on projects, 2020 still was a significant year for development in the greater Wilmington area.
Projects such as River Place wrapped up as land was cleared for incoming development, including a new shopping center anchored by the largest Harris Teeter in southeastern North Carolina.
Below is a look at where some of the most-anticipated projects stand heading into the new year.
North Waterfront Park
It took extra time and some extra millions, but construction at the site of the future North Waterfront Park is well underway.
Construction was slated to start back in 2018 but was pushed due to budget concerns and weather. Meanwhile, the cost jumped from an originally planned $20 million to $31 million because of the construction involved with utilities and rising market costs.
The City of Wilmington is calling North Waterfront its flagship park, with features including a Live Nation amphitheater, a large plaza, a playground and splash pad, as well as plenty of green space and lawns, trails, gardens and lots of shady trees.
From the outside, it does not appear as if any land clearing or construction work has taken place at the Avenue, perhaps the city’s largest planned development, in recent months.
Located on Military Cutoff across from The Arboretum, yet another development nearing completion, the Avenue, will include a 231-unit Westin hotel, 500 luxury apartments, and three parking garages. Plans also include 196,100 square feet of retail, restaurant, and residential space and a 133,500 sq. ft office building.
In 2019, developers cleared out Hidden Lakes mobile home park to make way for the project. Since then, the site has had little activity. A city spokesperson said there was no development update on the project and the city is awaiting plan submittals through the Technical Review Committee.
A representative for the company told Port City Daily in August it was pressing on with plans for the project despite Covid-19.
The Crossroads at Independence
Ground broke in November for a planned 92,000-square-foot Harris Teeter, the largest in southeastern North Carolina, near the intersection of Independence Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road.
The grocer will serve as the anchor of The Crossroads at Independence. Plans for the project include additional buildings to rent to local and national tenants and a Harris Teeter gas station.
The project is located strategically near incoming development off River Road, specifically the planned commercial expansion in Riverlights.
Developers are currently putting the finishing touches on Wilmington’s River Place project. A final inspection is due mid-January, according to a city spokesperson.
The multi-story, luxury mixed-use development overlooking the Cape Fear River includes residential and retail space, as well as parking.
An $83 million public-private project between the city and East West Partners, River Place encumbered numerous cost overruns in recent years.
Located where the old Water Street parking deck used to sit, River Place includes 171 residential units and 403 parking spaces (168 spaces will be reserved for public use). Apartment units “wrap” the parking deck so it is not entirely visible from the street.
County government center redevelopment
For years now, New Hanover County employees have worked out of an original 1989 shopping mall that is in need of extensive repairs and upkeep. But a plan for redevelopment calls for a modernized four-floor, “open concept” government center with a park out front.
The center will be located on the same lot adjacent to the existing building.
Construction is expected to begin early this year with the goal for the new facility to be move-in ready by summer 2022. While work is ongoing, county employees will continue providing services in the existing building.
Planned on the northwestern corner of Military Cutoff and Eastwood Road, CenterPoint has obtained all local approvals but has not yet begun development.
A city spokesperson said there was no development update on the project and the city is awaiting plan submittals through the Technical Review Committee
First approved for a Special Use Permit by Wilmington City Council in 2018, plans for CenterPoint shifted in September 2020.
The developer, Swain Associates, sought to increase the height of three buildings to 75 feet, 20 feet taller than permitted. Swain originally obtained SUP approval in 2018 for a 75-foot hotel and a 68-foot apartment building in 2018. In September, after neighbors in Cambridge Village objected to the developer’s tactics and plans to increase building height, Swain dropped the request to modify the SUP.
Instead, the city approved Swain’s last-minute revised plans through a conditional district rezoning, which moved the 200-room hotel with previously planned frontage on Military Cutoff to Eastwood Road. The hotel is keeping the same amount of rooms but will be 55 feet instead of the 75 feet for which it was initially approved. The planned 300 apartment units will remain the same.
The developer reduced square footage for planned retail space by 30% to 90,200 sq. ft., restaurant space by 44% to 30,900 sq. ft., and medical and office space by 4% to 102,300 sq. ft.
Jason Swain, lead developer on the project, told city council the changes were necessitated by planned right-of-way acquisitions for the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Drysdale Drive extension project.
“It’s not often that developer comes in and asks to downscale his project,” Swain said, yet clarified the acquisitions ate too far into parking space for the planned hotel.
NCDOT’s Drysdale Drive extension will construct a new 0.25-mile roadway across Military Cutoff from the existing Landfall entrance near the county library. The new extended roadway will connect to Eastwood Road, avoiding the Military Cutoff-Eastwood intersection. NCDOT put the project out to bid in the spring but canceled in late March bid due to budget constraints.
NCDOT is also planning a flyover overpass for the intersection. The department originally planned to start construction on the intersection improvements in 2021 but work has been delayed until at least 2023.
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