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City Council Set To Consider $625K Property Purchase In Downtown's Northern Gateway

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 16, 2021
The city of Wilmington is looking to purchase property located in downtown's northern gateway, slated to become a part of a potential $90 million mixed-use development.

City council members will consider a resolution authorizing the $625,000 purchase of 0.39 acres at 1019 N. Third St., according to the city's agenda. The city would be taking over the purchase from East West Partners Management Company Inc. (EWP). The current property owner is Spiro Macris.

"If approved, upon assignment of the contract, the City will be obligated to purchase the property by paying the remaining balance of $524,000 and reimburse EWP $101,000 for their previous deposits and elected option period fees," stated the city's agenda."Together, these payments represent the total purchase price of $625,000. In addition to the purchase price, the City will be responsible for any and all closing costs associated with the conveyance."

The land is in the North Third Street corridor that has been part of a $90 million development plan known as the Northern Gateway project. The project, a proposed public-private partnership by Chapel Hill-based East West Partners in conjunction with the city, was stalled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When the pandemic started, the City of Wilmington understandably put the Gateway project on hold. Since then we have had discussions about restarting the process, but there is still not a clear path forward," said Lucien Ellison, senior managing partner for East West Partners, in an email Friday.

"Meanwhile the closing date for this strategic piece of property is fast approaching. Until we can agree on purchase and development terms, it only makes sense that the city close on and control the property," Ellison added. "This .39 acres, along with the city’s adjacent properties, will be the basis for the Northern Gateway Development. The City of Wilmington is purchasing the property for the same amount that East West Partners was to pay; and if EWP moves forward with the project, we will purchase it back from CoW at no less than the same price."

East West Partners' plan for the Northern Gateway Projecct, which would also involve city-owned property at 1020, 908 and 922 N. Front St. and 901 N. Third St., would include res­idential units, retail space, a hotel, a visitors center and parking.

The city wishes to purchase the property "so that it can be combined with other City-owned property in order to more effectively and efficiently develop the northern gateway entrance into downtown Wilmington," the agenda states.

The agenda also states that the proposed purchase can "ensure that the Property remains part of the development, regardless of when it gets developed."

The examination period on the existing contract by and between East West Partners and Macris ends April 20, and the closing date is on or before May 20.

"The acquisition of this property addresses the Council Focus Areas of Diverse and Thriving Economy, Welcoming Neighborhoods and Public Spaces, and Sustainability and Adaptability. If approved, City Staff would begin the process to close and purchase this property," the agenda states.

Wilmington City Council is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Wilmington Convention Center, 10 Convention Center Drive.
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