Friday, August 12, 2022

Mixed-use project The Avenue returns, requests modifications to city’s street standards

The Avenue is a $200-million, 44-acre luxury development including a hotel, apartments, retail and office space on Military Cutoff Road. (Port City Daily/file)

WILMINGTON — A major mixed-use project that’s been on hold since it was approved in 2018 is back in play. The Avenue, a $200 million, 44-acre luxury development, has faced scrutiny for its impact it will likely have on traffic, and now the developer is asking for variances to its street design and layout prior to construction.

Located on Military Cutoff Road — formerly zoned for a mobile home park, Hidden Lakes, which was demolished at the end of 2019 — the project is now conditionally zoned for urban mixed-use. It will include 525 apartments, a hotel with 247 rooms, 131,700 square-feet of office space, 115,000 square-feet for retail and 16,000 square feet of restaurant space.

READ MORE: Wilmington City Council gives final approval to The Avenue development on Military Cutoff

Updated plans also show a “hotel spa island” and hotel villas, on a lake adjacent to the Westin Hotel. It will include 1,600 parking spaces in two decks and nearly 1,500 surface parking spots, along with 660 spots for bike parking.

Before completion, The Carroll Companies must make road improvements, including the installation of a new traffic signal on Military Cutoff, travel and turn lanes and a three-lane cross-section on Station Road.

It’s estimated to bring 16,000 additional daily trips. Military Cutoff Road, already given an “F” grade at major intersections by the N.C. Department of Transportation, would be pushed to twice its capacity — or nearly 60,000 vehicles — per the project’s development.

Based on more complete engineering plans, the city’s technical review committee noted several necessary adjustments during a preliminary review in May.

The Greensboro-based landowner has submitted a request for variances for the project, to be heard during a special-called design adjustment committee meeting Wednesday.

On behalf of The Carroll Companies, Paramounte Engineering’s Rob Balland is asking for 13 modifications to the city’s standard regulations when it comes to street rights-of-way, traffic engineering and layout.

According to the application, the project is designed to mimic an urban environment with “grid-like” street design and pedestrian crossings. Therefore some of the city’s requirements are not doable in keeping with the developer’s approach.

Fitting with the “urban” format, the design includes on-street parking and roundabouts, as well as designated valet and drop-off areas.

Since the project will not contain any public rights-of-way, Paramounte Engineering is asking to remove the easements provisions to allow flexibility in the layout. The applicant is also asking to use a variety of rights-of-way widths to allow for pedestrian amenities, such as wider sidewalks and landscaped medians.

City senior planner Brian Chambers said The Carroll Companies engaged a firm last year for  engineering and design work, which led to an “administrative modification” of the site plan approved in March.

The Avenue first came under scrutiny in 2017, when it was originally submitted for rezoning and then withdrawn the same year. Criticisms were lobbed over the increased traffic the development would bring. Still, The Avenue received the go-ahead from city council in June 2018. The rezoning was approved 5-2.

The special use permit, voted 6-1 to approve, allows buildings to be up to 75 feet tall. The district typically has a maximum height restriction of 35 to 55 feet, depending on location.

According to current plans, The Avenue will include up to 12 buildings, ranging from four to seven stories tall and totaling more than 1 million square feet of space. There is also space designated for future development.

The Avenue has a financial benefit (per PCD reporting, estimated in 2018) to create between 1,800 and 2,600 jobs paying an average salary of $41,000. It’s also estimated to generate between $1.97 and $2.48 million in annual property taxes.

An economic report created by UNCW’s professor Adam Jones helped persuade the city council to approve its development.

READ MORE: This private UNCW study helped make the case for The Avenue. Here’s what it actually said

Following the outcome of the design adjustment committee — which meets Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall — The Avenue will be submitted for formal technical review. 

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