Monday, June 24, 2024

One of city’s surplus properties to pay down Skyline debt faces demolition

The city is taking bids to potentially raze a downtown building that formerly housed its administrative offices. (Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — The city is taking bids to potentially raze a downtown building that formerly housed its administrative offices.

READ MORE: Wilmington proposed budget: 7% property tax increase, motor vehicle tax hike

A request for bids was released earlier in the week. According to a spokesperson for the city, the advertisement has been put forth currently to gather figures for council, who would have to take a vote to officially move plans forward.

“No decision to demolish the structure has been made,” spokesperson Dylan Lee clarified to Port City Daily. 

The city’s goal is to sell 305 Chestnut St. among its other surplus properties to help pay down debt for its $68-million Skyline Center purchase. Tearing down the building won’t devalue the 1.5 acres, appraised at $7.5 million, Lee said: “Removing the structure could make the property more desirable to prospective buyers.”

The land’s assessed value is $1.5 million and the building almost $6 million; however it needs more than $4 million in repairs. A recent environmental assessment deemed the structure also contains asbestos.

Since 2013, according to property records, more than $800,000 had been paid toward renovations at 305 Chestnut St. to cover “HVAC, water heater, and flooring,” Lee listed.

The city bought the five-story and two-story structures, combined by a breezeway, in 1997 for $4.5 million from BB&T.

The city conducted three space needs studies over the last three decades to understand the best way to handle remediation of 305 Chestnut St., while fitting in with its growing staff’s needs. The latest suggested tearing down the structure, due to significant repairs and lack of space. 

It suggested the city build anew; a 102,000-square-foot building was projected to cost up to $96 million, not including a 237-space parking deck adding another $30 million to the price.

Last year when Thermo Fisher came on the market, the city was drawn to the fact it was half the cost and triple the space: a 370,000-square-foot building, 1,000-space parking deck and two parcels of land flanking the property.

Various departments were spread out across the region and, aside from fire and police, the city desired to consolidate them into one place. That included bringing under one roof staff who were at 210, 305, 315, 319 and 414 Chestnut St., 115 N. Third St., 302 Willard St., 1702 Burnett Blvd., and 102 Wellington Ave.

Staff now occupies five floors of the 12-story Skyline Center on Front Street. The rest are rented out to other businesses, including Thermo Fisher, LINC, Local Government Credit Union, and Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lee said two more are moving in soon: Sanctuary Wealth and Three Friends Coffee LLC.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s downtown location also moved from 305 Chestnut St. to Skyline last month.

The city and staff concluded purchasing Thermo Fisher, renting out its floors, and selling off the surplus properties would benefit taxpayers in the long-run. 

“Estimates show this approach would save approximately $55 million over construction alternatives for operational space and downtown parking needs,” Lee said.

So far the city has sold almost $2.6 million for five of its properties: 

  • 320 N Front St: $750,000
  • 222 and 226 S Front St: $495,000
  • 302 Willard St: $752,500
  • 1536 S Front St: $600,000

Lee said 1502 Wellington Ave. is supposed to close next month for $525,000.

State statute authorizes specific means by which the city can dispose of surplus property,” Lee said. “Council will evaluate its options, including whether or not to demolish [305 Chestnut St.], and select an approach best in line with its vision for disposing of the property.”

The contractor awarded the bid at 305 Chestnut St. will be responsible for asbestos abatement in accordance with EPA, State of North Carolina Health Hazards Control Unit, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, general specification documents note. The company also will secure all permits and work with utilities to properly disconnect services, remove meters and lines. 

All material in the building will become the property of the winning bidder, responsible for properly disposing materials, including recyclables, and preserving “historic architectural components for sale or donation.” A basement is also included on the 45,750-square-foot property, to be demolished and backfilled.

The city is hosting a mandatory pre-bid conference at 305 Chestnut St., 9 a.m., on Tuesday, May 21. Bids are received until June 6 until 3 p.m., when they will then be publicly opened and read at the city’s purchasing division, 929 N. Front Street 1st floor lobby, meeting room 1. An environmental study is included in the bid documents.

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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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