The New Hanover County Health & Human Services division leased a former AT&T maintenance facility in October to house a new pandemic operations team.
The three-year lease of 1507 Greenfield St. in Wilmington starts at nearly $100,000 a year, escalating 5% annually, said Jessica Loeper, county spokeswoman.
The property, on the corner of 16th and Greenfield streets, comprises a city block near the 96,000-square-foot, four-story county Health & Human Services (HHS) facility at 1650 Greenfield St. that was completed last year.
The newly leased property includes 8,000 square feet of building area and 150 parking spaces.
“This new space is important because New Hanover County needed an area dedicated to the pandemic operations team to function and operate that includes office space, conference rooms, storage areas, as well as an area to be able to provide vaccinations as a clinic site,” Loeper said in an email. “All of that is not able to be accomplished or available in the space of the HHS building, without impacting the daily operations of HHS. Each area of the HHS building is dedicated to specific functions for HHS, as well as Veteran Services, new positions funded by ARP [American Rescue Plan COVID relief funds] to support programs like rental and mortgage assistance, the COVID call center, expansion of mental health staff, and more.”
Loeper said the county is being proactive in creating a pandemic operations team “because it’s important that we begin to manage in the context of COVID being endemic, and the eventuality of different strains and novel diseases that are not known at this time. By standing up this team and operation, the county is building a system of planning and response. It is being funded through ARP dollars, and currently $3,738,462 is allocated for this.”
Hansen Matthews of Wilmington-based Maus Warwick Matthews & Co. represented the landlord, 1507 Greenfield LLC, in the HHS lease. 1507 Greenfield LLC bought the property in 2019.
“Due to the unique size and location of this property, we received immediate interest from as far away as Dallas and Richmond,” Matthews said. “The landlord received multiple offers and based his final decision on this particular user as well as their mission. It’s hard not to respond positively when a community’s health department is requesting to use your property.”
The owner’s long-term plans are to redevelop the site because of its midtown location at a major intersection, Matthews said.
For the county, the goal of the leased facility is to establish a dedicated space for the pandemic operations team to work, plan and conduct any of the county’s vaccine operations that would be needed, Loeper said. It would also ensure that the team doesn’t impact the daily operations of HHS functions and the public health clinic, she said.
“The vaccine clinics require a lot of set-up, logistics, staff (clinic staff, admin staff, etc), and parking needs, and additional storage is needed for equipment (as well as storage for outreach clinics like tents, cones, signs, units with the mini fridges, etc.), so this new facility will help ensure the county is prepared and able to operate and respond to the needs of the community during COVID-19 efficiently and well,” Loeper said. “Currently, we are operating vaccine sites at the HHS health clinic and also our leased space at [Independence Mall] – which impacts daily functions of the health clinic and requires separate staffing and logistics needs to be in two locations. So this new location would consolidate that work and make operations more streamlined, while also remaining very close to the main HHS building.”
The county is in the midst of hiring for the pandemic operations team, which will be made up of a group of professional staff responsible for analyzing the epidemiological spread and containment of diseases and formulating operations and outreach plans for current and potential pandemic and catastrophic events, according to New Hanover County human resources.
"This is a new division within Health and Human Services, on the cutting edge of providing enhanced services to protect and maintain safety for the public through clinical assessment, data analysis and strategic planning and implementation of crisis plans," officials said.
The team will be made up of a pandemic operations manager, a pandemic operations planner, a public health epidemiologist, a pandemic operations outreach specialist, an inventory control technician, a team of pandemic operations contact tracers and a team of administrative technicians.
Initial funding for the positions will come from the American Rescue Plan until Dec. 31, 2024, with an expectation to request funding through the ongoing budget after exhausting the initial appropriated funds, Loeper said.