CAROLINA BEACH — In the midst of a multi-layered effort to turn a vacant 10 acres in Carolina Beach into a modern mixed-use development, Cape Fear Commercial is hosting a series of community meetings and has set up a website to spread information about the plan.
The site is a combination of two parcels: the 6.5-acre Harris Teeter property known for a lawsuit fought between the grocery chain and one of its competitors, Publix, as well as the neighboring 5-acre parcel.
The same team previously developed the next-door Publix, according to Cape Fear Commercial partner Brian Eckel, “so we have had our eye on this real estate for years.”
“We were able to assemble both parcels, which gives us an incredible opportunity to create a cohesive, well thought out development,” Eckel wrote in an email. “We believe it would be missed opportunity if the property was subdivided and sold as individual parcels without a cohesive plan.”
The proposed development, The Proximity, would offer long-term apartment rentals and an array of other uses. Commercial buildings in the preliminary site plan are shown to include restaurants, retail and office space, and residential amenities.
Eckel said there will be a taxi-style service, but with golf carts; the developers intend to engage with the Carolina Beach Mural Project, and are looking for insight from local committees and groups that will shape the plans.
The project requires more than just a rezoning request, which puts the intended land use in line with town code. Since there’s a rule in Carolina Beach that mixed-use projects in this area must have commercial space on the ground floor — and the Proximity wants to have stand-alone residential buildings — there’s an extra step. The development team has to secure a text amendment to town code, which would allow for an all-residential building, or residences on the first floor, in the project. The planning board voted against the text amendment application, which will be considered by town council Sept. 14.
“Their project, how they have it designed and proposed, is dependent on whether that text amendment passes on September 14,” planning director Jeremy Hardison previously told Port City Daily. “If it does not pass, then their plan as we know it is scratched. They’ll have to do a redesign.”
Eckel explained to Port City Daily in an email that the development team has erred in its campaign for the text amendment campaign.
“Candidly, we did a poor job at the first text amendment hearing with the planning commissioners, we focused solely on the text amendment which was what the hearing was all about,” he wrote. “Although we had staff support, we spent zero time talking about our vision for the property. We realized quickly that the community wanted to hear about our vision for the property to give some context to the text amendment.”
While the developers proposed the text amendment in the interest in their specific project, it would apply across numerous acres in the town’s business district, and would have wider effects. Councilor Lynn Barbee told Port City Daily he asked planning staff to work with the developers “to tighten up the language” on their proposed rule change.
More information can be found on the development team’s microsite. Eckel said there have been seven community meetings held so far, and more planned for the future.
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