WILMINGTON — The developer behind downtown Wilmington’s River Place is now eyeing a former driving range off Oleander Drive for a 340-plus apartment complex, with retail space and at least 30 workforce housing units.
The Wilmington Planning Commission will review plans Wednesday submitted by Chapel Hill-based firm East West Partners for 5026 Oleander Dr. The site, now an overgrown grassy lot off the busy route, is currently owned by The Oleander Company, Inc.
Across the nearly 15 acres, the project would encompass 161 single bedrooms, 159 two-bedrooms and 26 three-bedroom units. The total 346 apartments will be spread across seven buildings, ranging from two to four stories. There also will be a stormwater pond, a clubhouse, a dog park, an “outdoor recreation area” and 13,760 square feet of commercial building.
McKay Siegel, of East West Partners, said he could envision a lively restaurant in the space, as it fronts the pond and a multi-use path. The square footage will likely be split up between two to four tenants.
“The more energy that we can bring to that retail, the better I think the project will be,” Siegel said.
In exchange for developing a high-density complex, East West Partners is agreeing to designate at least 10% of the units as workforce housing for a minimum of 15 years. Those units will be dispersed throughout the site, rather than concentrated in one area. With the workforce housing component, the applicant is eligible to take advantage of an unlimited density and is proposing 23.3 units per acre, instead of the usual 17-units-per-acre maximum.
Neighboring Wilmington Municipal Golf Course, the site previously operated as The Oleander Golf Center, until it closed in 2017.
“It’s just sort of sat vacant for a long time,” Siegel said. “I think that Oleander is seeing some good, new development and revitalization, I suppose, of what’s obviously a very important corridor for Wilmington. It’s just a good opportunity.”
In November 2016, a land rezoning was attempted for a college student housing project with 153 units, a total of 592 bedrooms, and 4,130 square feet of commercial space. Staff recommended the planning commission turn down the plans, and the applicant withdrew the request.
Five years later, city staff is now recommending approval of the latest proposal.
“Compared to the previous requested rezoning (2016), this proposal provides a more substantial non-residential component, is being developed in conjunction with a new traffic signal, including a signalized pedestrian crossing on Oleander Drive, and is not exclusively focused on student housing,” staff wrote in its case summary, provided to the planning commission.
In the document, staff expressed support of the mix of uses within the development, suggesting the commercial space will reduce traffic by servicing residents and promoting multiple stops at one location. A site plan also marks a space for a future bus stop, and staff suggests the project will create the density needed to support public transit along the corridor.
The proposal also incorporates an 8-foot-wide multi-use path, wrapping around the eastern side of the complex, from Oleander to Brook Forest Drive. Bicyclists and walkers will be able to pass through the complex, from the southern neighborhood to the signalized pedestrian crosswalk proposed for Oleander.
The development will back up to a single-family community. Landscaping and fencing are proposed to block the view between the apartments and existing homes.
The planning commission meets at 6 p.m. on Dec. 1 in City Hall, located at 102 North 3rd St. People can attend in person or watch as it streams live on the city’s website. City council will take into consideration the planning commission’s ruling and ultimately have final say on the plans at a date to be determined.
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