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Real Estate - Commercial

Along Cape Fear River, Local Developers Planning Two Major Upscale Projects

By Staff Reports, posted Jun 7, 2022
A proposed development along the Cape Fear River near the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge could hold 300 apartments and retail space in an upscale community called The Proximity at Dram Tree Point. (Preliminary rendering courtesy of Cape Fear Development)
Wilmington-based developers revealed Tuesday they want to build two separate upscale communities along the Cape Fear River.

Officials with Cape Fear Development, an affiliate of Cape Fear Commercial, stated in a news release that rezoning applications for two waterfront sites will be submitted to the city of Wilmington for review.

The company is applying to rezone 7.4 acres of former industrial land directly south of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and a portion of a separate 40.4-acre site, currently occupied by Watermark Marina at 4114 River Road. Efforts to find out more about the future of the marina were not immediately successful Tuesday.

The applications will ask that the sites be rezoned to Urban Mixed-Use and MD-10 zoning districts, respectively, to create apartment communities that feature green space, multi-use trails and an integrated riverfront, according to the release.

"Both sites are located on the Cape Fear riverfront and have previously been built upon. Considering their current condition, these parcels are ideally positioned for environmentally responsible infill developments that celebrate Wilmington’s history and deep-rooted connection to the Cape Fear River," the release stated.

At the end of Independence Boulevard off River Road, Cape Fear Development officials want to build The Proximity at Watermark (pictured below), with two four-story structures that would hold 248 apartments.

"Rather than encroaching onto undeveloped wetlands near the riverbank, the design has utilized the site’s current concrete footprint to minimize environmental impacts," the release stated.

The 7.4-acre site next to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is currently zoned for light industrial uses "that are no longer appropriate for the vibrant and evolving southern core of downtown Wilmington," according to the release. "Following the exit of industry, the land has remained vacant for many years, with concrete remnants that have fallen into disrepair."

This project, The Proximity at Dram Tree Point, would include a five-story structure with 300 apartments and about 5,000 square feet of retail space.

"Project costs for The Proximity at Dram Tree Point will include significant traffic and landscaping improvements at the base of Dawson Street and along Surry Street — linking together local neighborhoods and commercial hubs under the backdrop of the Cape Fear River," the release stated.

The Surry Street properties that would hold The Proximity at Dram Tree Point are currently owned by Riverman LLC, managed by Michael McCarley and Kevin Walker, according to local property tax and state records. A Greater Wilmington Business Journal article in 2012 said one of the parcels, 712 Surry St., at one time was the site of scrapped plans for The Gateway Project, a proposed 11-story, 260-unit condo development.

The release stated that mature trees will be transplanted to the vacant site, providing shade for bike and pedestrian trails planned that wind down to the riverbanks and connect to local trail systems.

“The Proximity at Dram Tree Point is planned to be a gateway into Wilmington that every local can be proud of,” said Cape Fear Development Partner Mike Brown, in the release. “These projects will bring major improvements like increased walkability to their pockets of the city.” 

The design of the Proximity projects is being led by local architectural firm LS3P. In preparation for this proposal, a brownfield agreement has been put in place to guide the development of the Dram Tree site, according to the release.

Cape Fear Development is representing the property owners in their rezoning applications. These applications follow the prior approval of two other projects, at Carolina Beach and New Bern, within the Proximity brand, the release stated.

“We believe an infill development with a design that honors the history of the riverfront is the best use of these sites, rather than seeing them left as another vacant lot, or occupied by an industrial facility,” said Brian Eckel, Cape Fear Commercial co-founder and a Cape Fear Development partner, in the release.

If the two applications are approved, the projects will be managed and financed by Cape Fear Development, which will be in charge of permitting and construction. According to the release, the firm’s new construction affiliate, Cape Fear Construction, can direct the build-out entirely in-house.
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