Follow Chris Linkedin Twitter Facebook
Email Chris Email
Economic Development
Feb 19, 2019

The Possibilities of Project Grace

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Coudriet - County Manager, New Hanover County Government

The possibilities of Project Grace are exciting.

It has been over two years since we began talking about the opportunity of a public-private partnership to create a mixed-use development in downtown Wilmington, which we have coined as “Project Grace.”

From early on, the vision has been to transform a county-owned block into a hub of activity with a mix of uses, build a modern, state-of-the-art library, and bring our Cape Fear Museum to the heart of downtown – within walking distance of so many other attractions.

As we received input from the community, neighbors and our commissioners, it was clear that an innovative learning and community space like this was needed but that it must be developed in a thoughtful and deliberate way.

About a year ago, the county conducted a space-needs analysis of the current library and museum to understand what it would take to up-fit the current spaces and what would be needed to ensure services could continue and thrive.

The analysis made it clear that the museum’s building is undersized and has considerable limitations for exhibits, and that the library’s building has a significant amount of underutilized space. Neither building was built for its current use, and both facilities would need an extensive amount of work to address current deficiencies.

Investing in the current museum building would be upwards of $26 million, based on preliminary estimates. Even with this investment, the museum would continue to have space limitations and, therefore, service limitations. And it will continue to have location challenges if it remains where it is, outside of downtown and away from any other attraction.

In my opinion, doing nothing is not an option. No matter what, we will have to make an investment in the library and museum in some capacity.

New Hanover County has approached Project Grace as a public-private development opportunity, so that the county’s investment makes sense, risks can be mitigated, and the improvements can serve our community for future generations.

In December, we received a well-thought-out Project Grace proposal from Zimmer Development Company, a local firm with national experience, and their team.  

This proposal is divided into three phases. The first phase includes constructing a new downtown library and Cape Fear Museum that – together – would be approximately 80,000 square feet. It also includes public greenspace and approximately 125 residential units on the block.

After constructing phase one, library and museum services would move to the new facility and phase two would include constructing approximately 125 more residential units and supporting street-level retail. The final possible phase would include a retail and office complex.

With this phased approach, the downtown library’s services would not be interrupted – allowing our staff to move library resources from their existing building directly into the new building once it is constructed.

In addition, Story Park would remain for the time being and wouldn’t be affected until the third phase of the project. To me, this continuation of services and greenspace is an important part of the proposal.

Now that we have reviewed the proposal, we are again asking for the community’s feedback. We will be hosting two public meetings to discuss Zimmer’s redevelopment proposal on Feb. 19 and 21 (details can be found here). We also have an online survey where the community can submit comments about the proposal and ask questions.

We are completing an outside financial analysis of the proposal now, and then we will take that information – along with the public input we receive – to our Board of Commissioners this spring to determine next steps.

The question now is: Do we invest in older facilities that are separate or do we invest in new facilities that are co-located?

As county manager, I am compelled to think that Project Grace is a way for New Hanover County to leverage a public-private partnership and build for the future. It is an opportunity to create synergy among our public library and Cape Fear Museum, increase services and learning opportunities for our residents and visitors, and provide greater economic impact for New Hanover County.

I hope you will take a look at the preliminary development proposal, share your feedback with us, and join me in envisioning the possibilities that Project Grace can have on our community.

New Hanover County is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow. See more at http://www.nhcgov.com.

Other Posts from Chris Coudriet

Nhcseal wilmingtonbiz
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Pfinder john zachary

What You Need to Know About SECURE 2.0 and Its Effect on Individual Retirement Accounts

John B Zachary - Pathfinder Wealth Consulting
Untitleddesign5

The Impact of a Growth Mindset

John Monahan - Vistage
Chris 16239425

‘Creative,’ An Adjective To Describe Your Accountant?!

Chris Capone - Capone & Associates

Trending News

Riverlights Could Add 73 More Townhomes To Mix, Site Plans Show

Staff Reports - Apr 18, 2024

Game Over For Michael Jordan Museum At Project Grace

Audrey Elsberry - Apr 19, 2024

City Approvals Push Forward Plans For Former Wilmington Fire Stations

Emma Dill - Apr 17, 2024

Surf City Embarks On Park’s Construction

Cece Nunn - Apr 19, 2024

Taking Marine Science On The Road

Lynda Van Kuren - Apr 19, 2024

In The Current Issue

Info Junkie: Lydia Thomas

Lydia Thomas, program manager for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNCW, shares her top info and tech picks....


With Coffee And Cocktails, Owners Mix It Up

Baristas are incorporating craft cocktail techniques into show-stopping coffee drinks, and bartenders are mixing espresso and coffee liqueur...


Taking Marine Science On The Road

“My mission and my goal is to take my love of marine science, marine ecosystem and coastal ecosystems and bring that to students and teacher...

Book On Business

The 2024 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

2024 Power Breakfast: The Next Season