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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Michael Jordan Museum won’t move forward with Project Grace

The Michael Jordan Museum was to build where Story Park is at the current downtown library. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — After four months of assessing whether the American sports icon Michael Jordan would have a museum erected in his honor, the county announced Friday plans won’t move forward.

READ MORE: ​​Michael Jordan museum planned as part of Project Grace

“The Jordan family determined during its review they could not dedicate the time necessary at this point to see a stand-alone museum through to completion,” county spokesperson Alex Riley explained.

The county was in conversations with Mrs. Jordan and Michael Jordan’s business team and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jordan family in December to explore the museum. Though in the beginning stages, the goal was to suss out schematic designs and operational details. The county indicated in its Friday announcement the project would not happen, though the parties’ discussions were “productive” and “collaborative.”

Both teams were to begin discussing the exhibit design process with LS3P, the architect that designed Project Grace — a public-private partnership with Cape Fear Development. It will be a new combined library and history museum on a 3-acre block between Second and Third streets, Chestnut and Grace streets.

The Michael Jordan Museum was to be built where the library’s Story Park is currently, as a separate structure beside Project Grace. The museum would recognize Wilmington’s most famous native, who got his start playing basketball at Laney High School before going on to win championships for the UNC Tar Heels and Chicago Bulls.

“However, a contract had not yet been signed to begin the design work,” Riley clarified.

Though the county committed to funding initial design and due diligence, no money was put toward the project. Nor had its expenses been fully assessed.

“The museum’s construction would have likely come from multiple sources, but those details were not established at this point,” Riley said.

Currently, Jordan is honored in a permanent exhibit at the Cape Fear Museum, “Michael Jordan: Achieving Success,” installed in the 1980s; the county worked with the Jordan family to retrieve exhibit items. His name is also featured in the Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery — a hands-on science exhibit in the museum, for students to learn about ecosystems and geology, weather, plants and animals.

“The family remains dedicated and committed to the partnership with New Hanover County and making the Cape Fear Museum Michael Jordan Discovery Gallery all it can be and offering other memorabilia that highlights Michael’s life and career,” Riley said.

The player has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, United States Olympic Hall of Fame (he won two gold medals in 1984 and 1991), the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and FIBA Hall of Fame. Yet, he is absent from the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame — though a portion of I-40 is named in his honor and it appears at his alma mater, Laney High School, in the Michael Jordan Sports Complex.

The Project Grace development agreement with Cape Fear Development is not impacted by the decision. The $56-million project will consist of 95,000 square feet of library and museum space. The library will include a multi-purpose room, a new teen room, and local history room. The Cape Fear Museum will have a 60-seat planetarium, multiple exhibits and space for a traveling exhibit. An outdoor terrace is also planned.

The library is slated to open by late summer or early fall 2025, while the Cape Fear Museum is scheduled for public operation by early 2026.

The current library is open as construction takes place surrounding it and the Cape Fear Museum is still operational on Market Street.

Cape Fear Development has planned a mixed-use space on the southern portion of the parcel — where the library is today — to build retail, restaurants and residences. It will invest at least $30 million worth of private development.

Jordan’s impact can continued to be felt locally, even without a museum in his honor. A few years ago he announced a $10.1 million donation to build two Michael Jordan Novant Health clinics in Wilmington, currently under construction. They will be located at Greenfield and 15th streets and 30th Street and Princess Place Drive and work toward providing health needs to people in predominantly underserved areas.

PCD reached out to JUMP Management, Jordan’s family and business office that oversees his marketing, public relations, philanthropic and investing activities. It had no comment beyond information the county released.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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