Plans to bring a Circle K convenience store and gas station to the site of a former Walgreens on Dawson Street stalled Tuesday when Wilmington leaders denied a needed rezoning.
With some citing concerns about how the proposal fits standards in the city’s Comprehensive Plan and into the surrounding area, the Wilmington City Council denied the rezoning in a 3-3 vote on Tuesday. Circle K officials had hoped to rezone the site from its current urban mixed-use designation to a community business district to allow their proposal to move forward.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, mayor pro tem Clifford Barnett and council member Luke Waddell voted in support of the rezoning while council members Kevin Spears, Salette Andrews and David Joyner opposed it. Council member Charlie Rivenbark was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Circle K had planned to demolish the vacant building at 1618 Dawson St. to build a nearly 4,000-square-foot convenience store and 14 fuel pumps. Walgreens moved out of the site’s more than 11,000-square-foot building in 2021, and it’s been vacant ever since.
The 1.8-acre tract also includes a nearly 33,000-square-foot parking lot. The building and land are valued at $3.4 million, according to a 2023 valuation from New Hanover County.
Plans for the site included a single-story Circle K convenience store, an outdoor seating area, gas pumps, and a fuel canopy, according to rezoning documents. The site’s existing ATM will remain. According to the company’s website, Circle K currently has eight Wilmington area locations.
Circle K’s Real Estate Development Manager Andy Pirolo told council members that the high volume of traffic passing the site makes it a prime spot for development.
“We felt that this was an area that was in dire need of a modern convenience store with gasoline,” Pirolo said. “There really isn’t a state-of-the-art convenience store within a couple miles of it.”
Pirolo said Circle K had planned to invest $5.8 million to construct the new convenience store, which would have employed around 15 people. The store would have been developed through a long-term ground lease with property owner ZP NO 45 LLC.
The limited liability company, which is registered to Jeffrey L. Zimmer of Wilmington-based Zimmer Development Co., purchased the site in 1998 for $495,000.
Wilmington resident Dan Spilman raised concerns about the proposal’s consistency with the city’s Comprehensive Plan during a public comment period.
“I would love to see the city say that we’re gonna stand behind our Comprehensive Plan and we’re going to read the document,” Spilman told the council. “The hard part was getting that document done. The easy part should be implementing it. This is almost like a master class in why you don’t just approve everything.”
Council members also raised concerns about proposed driveways off of Dawson Street that would cross over existing sidewalks along the site.
The property, which is bordered by Dawson, S. 16th and S. 17th Streets, has a long history as a pharmacy. The building was constructed in 1998, according to a real estate listing. Before becoming a Walgreens, the store operated as a Rite Aid; before that, it was an Eckerd Drug.
In a zoning denial, applicants must wait at least six months before they can resubmit the same rezoning application, according to Lauren Edwards, a communications manager with the city of Wilmington.