Belk seeks variance to redevelop small portion of parking lot into restaurant

Plans include subdividing the parent 12-acre Belk lot to create a new 0.5-acre parcel for a restaurant fronting Oleander Drive next to Moe's Southwestern Grill. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Plans include subdividing the parent 12-acre Belk lot to create a new 0.5-acre parcel for a restaurant fronting Oleander Drive next to Moe’s Southwestern Grill. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON –– Belk is seeking a variance from the City of Wilmington to gain permission to tweak city codes to allow the redevelopment of a small portion of its street-facing parking lot into a restaurant. 

Property owner Janet Smith of Belk Inc. is hoping to subdivide the curved 12.8-acre lot, including the Belk store and overflow parking at Independence Mall, cornering Oleander Drive and Independence Road. 

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Under the plans put forth on behalf of the owner by the applicant, Rise Partners of Charlotte, a variance is needed to carve out a 0.5-acre lot out of the parent parcel; because the land is zoned regional business, the city requires a minimum lot size of 1 acre. 

Proposed directly to the east of Moe’s Southwest Grill, the positioning of the lot off Oleander Drive makes it impossible for the developers to meet street yard and perimeter landscaping requirements, according to the application submitted to the board of adjustment. 

If approved, the subdivided lot will get redeveloped into a 50-seat CAVA, a Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant. The chain has 13 restaurants in North Carolina, according to its website.

In recent years, the aging Independence Mall has seen somewhat of a redevelopment revival, with the destruction of Sears and addition of several new businesses, including Lidl, Five Below, Dick’s Sporting Goods and more, and fronting Oleander Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux.

As malls lose appeal and relevancy in the digital age, redevelopments help make use of wasted space.

“With the growing prevalence of online shopping and e-commerce, mall parking lots that were previously developed are becoming less used as some shoppers are choosing to shop online rather than going to the mall,” Michael Hull, project manager Donaville Group, Inc., a firm representing the developers, wrote in a July letter of intent. 

Overflow parking lots like the proposed parcel in question aren’t ideal for shoppers, Hull described. “The low desirability and diminished need for overflow parking makes for a great opportunity for redevelopment,” he wrote.

If city code were to be strictly applied in this case, “the ordinance would inhibit the redevelopment of the proposed parcel to an extent it would be infeasible.”

The board of adjustment will review the application on Sept. 16.


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