Wednesday, March 22, 2023

After years of no action, Galleria development on Wrightsville Ave back on the table

City to review updated site plan for mixed-use project

State Street Companies latest site plan for the Galleria property along Wrightsville Avenue includes the first phase of development: 366 apartment units with a parking deck, courtyard and pool. (Courtesy rendering/City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — A proposed mixed-use development in the works for nearly a decade could finally come to fruition along Wrightsville Avenue. There have been ambitious plans for the Galleria project — named for the mall that was demolished on site in 2012 — but a number of factors halted progress.

The City of Wilmington’s technical review committee will hear updated plans this month, the second time in three years it has met regarding the project. The latest layout for phase one of the Residences at the Galleria drops some of the originally proposed mixed-use elements and decreases the amount of commercial and retail space. It still includes more than 300 apartments.

CATCH UP: Wilmington heading into the red on Galleria land deal, if nothing is built

Charlotte-based State Street Companies first submitted an application to the TRC in September 2019 to include a seven-story hotel, a four- to five-story mixed-use building, 400-spot parking deck, an internal roadway network and more. 

Initially slated for phased construction through December 2025, site plans for the Galleria were revised 11 times between September 2019 and September 2021, according to the city’s project tracking website. 

State Street Companies, also developing the nearby Airlie at Wrightsville Sound neighborhood approved for construction in 2018, purchased the roughly 14-acre property in 2013. At the time, the property was zoned commercial within Wrightsville Beach’s town limits. The beach town did not have a zoning district that fit State Street Companies CEO and president Jeff Kentner’s vision for mixed use, so he reached out to the city to annex the property eight years ago. It first appeared before city council for a rezoning in September 2014.

The city agreed to reimburse Wrightsville Beach $778,896 over 29 years for the tax revenue lost on the future development. Since 2014, the city has paid upward of $170,000 to the Town of Wrightsville Beach. 

Kentner also requested the relocation of an ABC store, once located on the Galleria land. The store distributed profits to Wrightsville Beach (per state law) but when the property was annexed into the city, the town would have lost that revenue. To ensure the beach town continued to receive its shares, a new store was erected a quarter-mile away on land given to the Town of Wrightsville Beach by the city, with state approval. Though a complicated process, requiring approval from the general assembly, the ABC board endorsed the idea.

The New Hanover County ABC store paid for the new building, but State Street reimbursed the organization for the value of the current property, roughly $740,000. 

This is the second time State Street has submitted site plans to Wilmington’s technical review committee. (Courtesy rendering)

New plans

State Street’s newly proposed site plan, designed by engineers Norris and Tunstall, includes a five-story apartment building located on 6.2 acres of the land, a 500-space parking deck and 20,480 square feet of commercial space. It proposes 11 surface parking spots and 73 spots designated for bike parking. 

The apartment building would house 232 one bedrooms, ranging in size from 711 to 1,205 square feet; 111 two bedrooms from 1,060 to 1,790 square feet; and 23 three bedrooms between 1,692 and 1,825 square feet.

The plan for the Residence at the Galleria also features an 11,000-square-foot club and leasing office, 5,000 square feet of retail, a 1,150-square-foot lobby, and a 3,330-square-foot sky terrace and lounge. A courtyard and a 1,500-square-foot pool also is proposed for the property.

The hotel does not appear to be included in the latest submissions.

Originally, State Street Companies planned for a 90-room, seven-story luxury hotel with the development, which would have required a special use permit for the proposed height of the building. Two years ago, the developer withdrew that permit request to address the concerns of surrounding residential neighbors.

READ MORE: SUP request withdrawn for Galleria’s 75-foot hotel, developer says he’s working with neighbors

At the time, Kentner said he would consider a feasibility study to relocate the hotel. In particular, homeowners living in the MacCumber Terrace neighborhood, located across the street from the proposed development, noted the hotel was not in harmony with the 2011 Wrightsville Sound Small Area Plan, adopted by the city in 2011. The plan is a community-driven collaboration between the City of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach for the future of the area, rather than allowing developers to determine growth. The area includes Landfall shopping center, nonresidential properties on the west side of Military Cutoff Road and residential areas between Rogers Avenue and Eastwood Road.

Galleria developers have been coordinating with the city and NCDOT on possible road improvements for a section of Wrightsville Avenue to accommodate the project. (Port City Daily photo / Shea Carver)

Traffic impact analysis

Part of the hang up is an ongoing debate among the city, N.C. Department of Transportation (owners of Wrightsville Avenue) and developers to coordinate a streetscape overhaul for a 1-mile area of the road to accommodate the project. 

READ MORE: Wilmington City Council to discuss Wrightsville Avenue improvements at Galleria site

As part of any proposed project, a traffic impact analysis helps determine roadway improvements, if needed, and new transportation patterns. The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved an analysis at the Galleria site, 6730-6800 Wrightsville Ave., on July 15, 2019. According to the TIA, the developer requested the city pursue a number of road improvements prior to construction of the development. It cited the city’s comprehensive plan, which calls for mixed-use developments to be pedestrian friendly and highlights sidewalks and bike lanes. There currently are not any along this portion of Wrightsville Avenue.

Estimated costs for road improvements three years ago ranged from $2 million to $10 million, depending on the scope. No improvements have been made yet.

Kentner noted in the past that without the improvements the developers would not be able to move forward with the extensive plan as is. He suggested a less elaborate project — such as a basic apartment complex — if roadway improvements were not feasible.

A new traffic impact analysis from civil engineering firm Ramey Kemp estimates the project will contribute to 1,699 vehicles traveling along Wrightsville Avenue daily on weekdays.

“The proposed uses decreased in scope and will generate significantly less trip generation,” the developer notes in the latest site plan.

The main entrance of the project is located at the intersection of Wrightsville Avenue and Jones Road. It is currently being designed to accommodate potential future construction of a “complete street,” to include pedestrian and bike paths. It also includes a possible roundabout.

The re-submitted site plan for the Residences at Galleria will go before the technical review committee May 26.

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