Print
Government

County Tweaks Project Grace Agreement; LGC Could Vote Thursday

By Johanna F. Still, posted Sep 19, 2022
The Local Government Commission will consider taking action on New Hanover County's public-private partnership Project Grace at its meeting Thursday. (Rendering courtesy of New Hanover County)
New Hanover County has updated its memorandum of understanding with the developer planning Project Grace, the public-private partnership that could deliver a new museum and replacement library to downtown Wilmington. 

N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell first aired concerns with several aspects of the project when county officials presented the deal at the Local Government Commission meeting last month.

Last Thursday, Folwell wrote a letter to county officials formally seeking three amendments to the county's arrangement with Zimmer Development Co. The county responded the following day, and on Monday morning, the board of commissioners adopted two out of three of the treasurer’s requests

The LGC, which Folwell chairs, has the power to authorize the county’s lease agreement with Zimmer. 

Last month, the board of commissioners publicly urged the treasurer to place Project Grace on the LGC’s September agenda. The item appears on the LGC’s consent agenda for its Thursday meeting. 

Reached Monday afternoon, Folwell said he anticipates the LGC will discuss Project Grace Thursday (typically, consent agenda items at the local government level are voted on in bulk and not discussed unless specifically pulled). 

Asked if he was pleased the county made two of three concessions, Folwell said yes, but the unincorporated item “smells the worst.”

One concession involves the county removing a reference to its agreement to purchase design plans for up to $2.5 million from Zimmer contingent on LGC approval. Another ensures that any future change orders in the lease amount would have to go back to the LGC for approval. 

The unincorporated element involves the sale of land to the developer. 

In his Sept. 15 letter, Folwell had asked the county to reconsider its decision to sell 1.2 acres downtown (roughly one-third of the block it owns and is trying to redevelop) directly to Zimmer. Under the county’s arrangement with Zimmer, the company will obtain the land for $2.65 million (or the current fair market value) and the county will be able to impose certain restrictions to guide its future development it otherwise would not be able to.

In 2017, the county obtained a carve-out for a state law that exempted the specific block from a chapter of state law that governs public contracts. 

Instead of engaging in the disposition of the land with the developer privately, Folwell asked that the property undergo a typical public bid and upset process and allow Zimmer to have the right to beat the bid. “The point here is for the market to determine the value of the property,” he wrote. “Utilizing a standard upset bid process would preclude us from placing the necessary restrictions on the sale,” she wrote. ​

In the county’s Friday response to Folwell, assistant county manager Lisa Wurtzbacher highlighted local governments’ inability to impose restrictions on the sale of public property and said utilizing its statutory exemption “is the most appropriate method” for this deal. 

During the county meeting Monday morning, Wurtzbacher said design work on the project is ongoing. She also referenced rising interest rates. She said, “The longer that we wait, the more this project costs." 
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Mcwhorter 0005

UNCW Research Stories

Heather McWhorter - UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Katiebraskett web

September 2022 Freight Market Update

Katie Braskett - MegaCorp Logistics
Tommytaylor ceo unitedway

I Got 99 Problems But a 501(c)(3) Ain’t One

Tommy Taylor - United Way

Trending News

In $26M Project, County Could Purchase, Renovate Downtown Building For CFCC

Johanna F. Still - Oct 3, 2022

Wilmington Firms Launch Cybersecurity App Tool

Johanna Cano - Oct 3, 2022

In The Current Issue

MADE Winners: Food & Beverage Category

The Food & Beverage Category winners are Acme Smoked Fish of North Carolina, Kind Cultures and N. SEA. Oyster Co....


MADE Winners: Manufacturer Category

The Manufacturer Category includes companies that mass-produce goods mass-produced in the Wilmington area....


Spotlighting This Year’s MADE Awards

Each year, the MADE Awards program brings attention to manufacturers and makers in the Cape Fear region....

Book On Business

The 2022 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

Trying to Grow a Business?
2020 Health Care Heroes
2020 WilmingtonBiz 100