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Thursday, May 30, 2024

After moving out, WB Museum Bordeaux lease back on table

On Tuesday, museum board president Jan Brewington told Port City Daily the Bordeaux move cost about $2,000, and would have been significantly higher without volunteer help from the community. Now the town is asking the museum if it wants to renew the lease. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Less than a month after Wrightsville Beach Museum of History vacated the Bordeaux Cottage, the town is working on a new lease agreement that may allow it to return.

READ MORE: WB museum board president concerned about expired Myers Cottage lease after Bordeaux Cottage expulsion

ALSO: WB evicts museum from Bordeaux Cottage after Camp Chris Stone requests space

For years, the museum has hosted exhibits and artifacts at two West Salisbury Street locations, the Myers Cottage and Ewing-Bordeaux Cottage. The town owns both properties and leases them to the museum but both leases expired in October 2021, leaving the tenant under a month-to-month contract. 

Museum board members were caught by surprise when town manager Tony Wilson sent a notice of lease termination for the Bordeaux Cottage on March 22, directing them to “vacate the premises” by March 31. Although the Myers lease also expired, no similar directive was given for the museum’s other location.

On Tuesday, museum board president Jan Brewington told Port City Daily the Bordeaux move cost about $2,000, and would have been significantly higher without volunteer help from the community. She added board members worked on the move from early in the morning to late at night for eight days to meet the March 31 deadline.

Myers did not have enough space to receive all of Bordeaux’s materials, leading the museum to purchase a monthly rental unit. Some of the museum’s archives, with special storage requirements, are also now at UNCW, according to the museum president.

However, the town is now telling the museum the vacant property is available. In a Tuesday email, Wilson asked Brewington to contact him by April 30 if the museum board is interested in leasing the building.

“We’re not going to turn down any opportunity, but I’m kind of confused,” Brewington told PCD. 

In late March, Brewington also expressed concern about Myers’ future, arguing it didn’t “make any logical sense” to terminate only one of the expired leases. She said she would prioritize ensuring a new agreement for the remaining cottage once artifacts had been safely transferred out of Bordeaux.

Emails obtained by PCD show she contacted the town manager on April 1 to confirm the museum had vacated Bordeaux and to request the Myers lease renewal. She followed up on April 10 and copied Mayor Darryl Mills; Wilson responded he’d informed the board of aldermen of her request.

PCD reached out to the board members Tuesday to ask if there had been any updates on the situation; Mills said there were none at this time and alderman Zeke Partin said the town attorney is reviewing all leases before offering them back to interested parties.

On April 16, Wilson similarly told Brewington the town is evaluating all its current leases and will make necessary changes over the next few months. 

The museum president previously told PCD she believes the town only terminated the Bordeaux lease because of its refusal to host a former partner — Camp Chris Stone — at the cottage. The museum hosted the children’s camp, which provides interactive education experiences on marine life, at its West Salisbury location for years.

However, concerns including inadequate insurance, training, lifeguards, and other legal and safety issues led the museum board to end its relationship with the camp in December. Two months later at the Feb. 8 board of aldermen meeting, camp director Rhesa Stone called for the town’s assistance in regaining space at Bordeaux.

Brewington met with Wilson and Mayor Pro Tem Hank Miller face-to-face weeks later.  She maintains the meeting focused on the town’s request to return Camp Chris Stone, while the town states it addressed a broad range of lease-related issues, such as insurance, maintenance, landscaping, and sub-tenants.

In an email correspondence after the February meeting, Brewington told Miller and Wilson the museum board had not changed its position on hosting Camp Christ Stone. Miller responded the decision “could put your board in a very precarious position.”

Shortly afterward, aldermen voted 5-0 to terminate the Bordeaux lease at the March 14 meeting. 

Miller told PCD previously the goal of serving lease termination papers was to open the door to more conversation.

“Of course we’ll renegotiate,” he said last month. “We always were going to renegotiate. That was the whole impetus of sending the letter.”

Brewington said the museum board is seeking to use official channels to communicate with the town directly, and avoid one-on-one meetings with officials.

While Camp Chris Stone has full registration for its upcoming summer season, it is unclear if it will involve Bordeaux in its operations. PCD reached out to the camp to ask where it will be hosted but did not receive a response by press.

On Tuesday, Brewington sent Wilson an email expressing interest in leasing Bordeaux again but had questions:

“Are there any conditions on the lease of Bordeaux that would require us to sublease or in any way share any amount of space on the premises with another entity? Would a lease on Bordeaux be ready to look at?”

Wilson said it will take time to prepare a new agreement but added he would inform aldermen of the museum’s interest. PCD reached out to Wilson to ask if the lease would require hosting Camp Chris Stone but did not receive a response by press.


Tips or comments? Email journalist Peter Castagno at peter@localdailymedia.com.

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