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Monday, May 20, 2024

Student housing at The Cottages expands — for the third time

Developers for The Cottages at College Acres submitted to the city plans for a fourth phase of the student-living housing. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

WILMINGTON — Last year, Wilmington land-use consultant Cindee Wolf told the Wilmington Planning Commission her client College Apartment Traders, wanted to build a third phase to The Cottages at College Acres. She also said during a public hearing for rezoning of four parcels it would be the “last piece of the puzzle.”

However, that seems to not be the case. 

READ MORE: Wilmington Planning Commission OKs last piece of College Acres student housing

College Apartment Traders is now proposing phase four — a 0.69-acre project submitted to the city’s technical review committee to expand its student housing development once again. Plans show another six units slated at 4717 College Acres Dr. 

The Cottages at College Acres, located on College Acres Drive adjacent to UNCW’s campus, offers 150 three- and four-bedroom townhomes across its first three stages of development. Managed by Brown Investment Properties, units are fully furnished and outfitted with modern amenities.

Port City Daily reported last year, at least 14 properties along College Acres Drive — an area once rife with single-family homes — were purchased by developers to demolish 10 acres of land north of the university. It set the stage for The Cottages.

During public hearings for the complex’s first two phases, neighbors near College Acres Drive spoke in opposition of the development, citing traffic surges and possible crime. During the third phase, no one spoke out, but two planning commissioners — Al Sharp and Candy Cortes — attempted to deny the application but failed.

The project was kickstarted in 2018 amid a surge of students attending UNCW, which has faced a 40% growth rate over the last decade. From 2009 to 2019, UNCW had the highest enrollment growth of all public universities in the state. 

It still persists.

According to UNCW spokesperson Krissy Vick, the college is on track to meet its fall enrollment targets with 2,500 incoming freshmen and 2,000 transfer students.

“Our inventory of on-campus beds, the size of the total student body still greatly exceeds our residential capacity,” UNCW director of housing and residence life Dr. Kevin Meaney said.

If the latest phase of The Cottages makes its way successfully through the approval process, it could hold more than 500 total residents. There are about 125 townhomes already built.

The housing stretches from College Road to Racine Drive. Phase one’s first 45 townhomes were constructed last August and are 70% occupied, according to property manager Jeff Driggers.

Phase two units, with the ability to house another 250 renters, are now complete and move-ins will begin Aug. 1. Driggers added there are 239 pre-leased units for the fall. 

In July 2021, the Wilmington Planning Commission approved 36 additional three-bedroom units but there is not a scheduled date of completion.

The new units would add two buildings, each with six three-bedroom units. They will be constructed to match the current units with board-and-batten siding on the top half and horizontal siding on the bottom half.

More than the required open space is being included with 4,837 square feet planned to complement the roughly 6,000 square-foot buildings.

Nineteen additional parking spaces (one handicapped) will be created to accommodate the influx of residents. The lot will be constructed to the side of the phase four buildings. Each building will be two-stories at 35-feet high. 

Shared amenities in the complex include dog parks, a fitness center, pool, grilling area, clubhouse loaded with games and entertainment and a community app promoting social events with neighbors.

Rent ranges from $780 to $815 per bedroom, per month, so a three-bedroom townhome would be nearly $2,500 to rent in its entirety. It would be over $3,000 per month for a four-bedroom townhome.

Residents will access the housing from a shared driveway off College Acres Drive. The proposed structures would be closer to College Road than the current apartments. According to the developer’s application, the additional development would generate 40 additional daily trips.

The application will be reviewed by the technical review committee before going to the planning commission for further approval. A date has not yet been set for the board to hold a public hearing.

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