Monkey Junction bounces back
July 6, 2012By Meredith Burns
Now crawling out of a recession economy and dusting themselves off after fighting Wilmington annexation plans, residents of an unincorporated portion of southern New Hanover County known as Monkey Junction are looking towards future growth.
The residential real estate market appears to be recovering at a steady pace. Scott Shapiro, a broker with RE/MAX Essential, said inventory levels have fallen drastically since 2001 and new construction purchases are increasing. Shapiro said he might see multiple offers placed on appropriately priced properties – a rare occurrence just a few years ago.
“The supply is now less than the demand,” Shapiro said.
Commercial growth is taking longer to recuperate. Brian Eckel, co-founder of Cape Fear Commercial, said demand is still much lower than pre-recession levels and growth in the submarket is likely to be slow.
That doesn’t mean the market is standing still. Nicholas Silivanch, a commercial broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners, said activity from the first quarter of 2012 has risen 50 percent since the first quarter of the previous year.
“From the retail perspective, things are looking up,” Silivanch said.
Monkey Junction owes much of its commercial development success to its location at the intersection of Carolina Beach and South College roads, and its place between Wilmington and Pleasure Island communities.
“A large amount of vehicular traffic to and from the southern part of New Hanover County must traverse through Monkey Junction, making the intersection a commercial hub for the southern half of New Hanover County,” Eckel wrote in an email.
“Retailers have a herding mentality, so it is likely that this submarket will continue to grow until there are no more growth opportunities due to a lack of developable land...”
But Monkey Junction’s location and retail density has proved to be a double-edged sword. About 30,000 cars cross through the intersection daily, and the traffic pattern designed to deal with the congestion makes it difficult for customers to turn into some businesses. The county’s sign ordinance, banning push-in signs in the right-of-way of public property, also means some retailers lose visibility among the sea of businesses.
One of the area’s biggest challenges to growth is the lack of sewer and water infrastructure in some parts of Monkey Junction. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is working to reduce groundwater dependency and improve water and sewer services in the area.
Carey Disney Ricks, the authority’s spokeswoman, said that CFPUA was in the final design stages for an 8-inch water interconnect just north of Monkey Junction intended to improve water quality for existing customers when it is activated in about a year. The organization is also in the preliminary design stages for a 16-inch waterline that will bring water to more people in south Monkey Junction, Ricks said.
Lack of services in the area was one segment of the annexation debate between Wilmington officials and Monkey Junction residents. State lawmakers this year approved a measure blocking the city’s annexation of the area.
The move was applauded by many Monkey Junction residents and business owners who avoided being forcibly annexed, charged for some services they already receive from the county at a cheaper rate and slapped with a higher property tax.
But the halted annexation might also restrict long-term growth since many services will remain unavailable in the area. Projects like CFPUA’s Monkey Junction Trunk Water Line, a 24-inch conduit bringing water to residents south of Monkey Junction, must now search for alternate funding.
“The Monkey Junction Trunk Water Line Project was to be funded through an interlocal agreement related to annexation,” Ricks wrote in an email.
“The project is still important to serve areas south of Monkey Junction, but funding outside of annexation appears to be necessary.”