Sunday, March 26, 2023

Another proposal for across-the-river hotel is in the pipeline

Continuing an interest in the western shores of the Cape Fear River, developers intend to build a hotel with 290-bedrooms and rooftop pools next to the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — On the heels of newfound interest in developing the western shores of the Cape Fear River, project plans filed in New Hanover County indicate another large-scale proposal is in the works. 

Site plans have been submitted for a project titled “The Wilmington Hotel and Spa,” designed to house 290 bedrooms and rooftop pools on 14 acres between the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and the U.S.S. North Carolina.

The land, currently owned by Mooresville investors, is around one-half wetlands. As the site of industrial activities dating as far back as the 1800s, it is subject to a Brownfields Agreement. 

If built, the 100-foot hotel would be prominently visible across the river from the end of Market Street in downtown Wilmington. Just a few blocks north, Frank Pasquale, a retired developer from New Jersey, has partnered with a local realtor and attorney to propose a trio of towers up to 240-feet tall.

READ MORE: ‘This will be a gamechanger’: No movement on aggressive proposal for across-the-river development

The Wilmington Hotel project, at 125 Battleship Road, is scheduled for consideration from the county’s technical review committee in December. The proposal further north, Battleship Point, demands the creation of a new zoning district and will be the subject of public hearings next month and early next year. 

Members of the Schott family, affiliated with Diamondback, LLC, purchased the Battleship Road property in 2015 after it had been foreclosed on under a previous owner, according to property records 

On site plans, the developer is listed as the Charleston-based Ginn Corp. A representative of the company said the project team would soon be able to release more information to the public. The design firm, JHS Architecture Integrated Design, is based in Columbia, S.C. 

Through their company Holdings of TCM, Inc., the landowners entered into a Brownfields Agreement with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality in May 2020. Soil removal took place in years before that, and according to NCDEQ no additional remediation is required.

Brownfields sites are neglected properties “where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered its redevelopment,” according to NCDEQ. The agreements — this one covering around 40 acres — set a path forward for remediation so development of the site can commence. 

“Historically the Brownfields Property was originally developed for agricultural use during the mid-1700s until the mid-1800s, when it transitioned to industrial use including warehousing of cargo, naval stores, raw and milled lumber storage and shipping, turpentine stills, fertilizer production and storage, and shipbuilding and repair,” according to an NCDEQ notice to the landowners. 

The agreement limits future development at the site to a number of options: single-family and multi-family residential housing, or other standard uses like for offices, retail, restaurants or a hotel. 

Along with the landowning company, Vince Burgess of Burgess Group Consolidated, LLC is listed as a potential developer of the site in the agreement. 

Burgess, who also recently applied to build a restaurant in Scotts Hill, obtained a Department of Homeland Security contract three years ago worth $8 million, for repairs to U.S. Coast Guard bulkheads in Wilmington, which expired at the end of September. 

Burgess received a noncompliance letter from NCDEQ in September for not submitting an annual “self-certification” form, according to NCDEQ records. Almost 100 soil samples from the property were screened in analyses during June 2015 and spring 2016. After a March 2017 assessment, around 99 tons of soil “impacted with a tar/resin substance” was removed from the property, according to the agreement.

According to the 2020 agreement, NCDEQ is not requiring the developer “to perform any active remediation at the Brownfields Property other than remediation that may be required pursuant to a DEQ-approved Environmental Management Plan.”

The proposed hotel is situated on Eagles Island — the expansive buffer between downtown Wilmington and Brunswick County — where a community group is currently advocating for the island’s preservation. Parts of the Brownfields property are in Brunswick County, subject to industrial zoning, though no application has been submitted there relevant to the project yet. 

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