The distance between our Government Center and the Appalachian State campus is a little more than 300 miles. Give or take a few pit stops on the route, that equates to around five hours of staring through a windshield – which offers someone a lot of time to think.
That was the journey many Commissioners and New Hanover County staff members, including myself, took on October 3 to attend the Local Government Commission meeting in Boone. At this meeting, the LGC discussed and ultimately approved the county’s request for $57 million in debt issuance to fund Project Grace (bonds which the county sold on October 10 at incredibly low interest rates for today’s market conditions – an average yield of 4.28 percent).
Following years of work by staff and community partners, along with unwavering and unanimous support from the Board of Commissioners, the construction of a purpose-built, state-of-the-art Public Library and Cape Fear Museum in downtown Wilmington is on its way to becoming reality as this approval was the final step needed to start the work.
Once completed, this joint facility will be a cultural hub and a point of pride. Project Grace will have the space, infrastructure and technology to be a destination in the heart of our community.
So much attention has been paid to Project Grace, and for good reason. We firmly believe it has the potential to be a transformative site for years to come.
But, as I passed the hours on the road back home, I reflected on the fact that we are also building for a better future in so many different ways – all with the goal of creating a better community for every single person. It’s something our entire organization, from our Commissioners to our dedicated staff, is and has been committed to for a very long time.
Right now, crews are working to install stormwater piping underground where the old Government Center facility once stood. Once those lines are in place, work will begin on the “front lawn,” a greenspace which will host community gatherings and showcase outdoor art installations.
Along with the greenspace, work on the grounds to build a new Board of Elections facility and a private, mixed-use development will complete the transformation of the site, turning it from a repurposed mall to a space that serves our community in a variety of ways.
While work outside the Government Center is ramping up, the finishing touches are being made at Hanover Pines Nature Park off Carolina Beach Road. This 42.5-acre passive park will provide more recreational space for the public to enjoy. Additionally, we will soon debut the new convenience center at the Landfill. This will make it easier for residents to dispose of waste at the facility, streamlining the process moving forward.
Over the last several months, we have shared significant announcements in partnership with Wilmington Business Development about companies who are seeing our county as a place where they can thrive. Our business parks off Holly Shelter and Blue Clay roads will soon welcome an array of organizations to the community, offering our workforce high-wage employment opportunities right here at home.
And while shovels haven’t hit the dirt just yet, there are even more projects coming soon that will help address the needs of our community.
Plans are being finalized for two new fire stations off Castle Hayne and Gordon roads to provide better protection to residents in unincorporated areas of the county. Both stations are expected to be in service by the end of 2024.
A new library in the Northchase area is anticipated to open in spring 2025, which will give residents in the northern part of the county easier access to all the resources our public library has to offer. The partnership between the county and the Northside Food Co-op to bring a grocery store to the Northside area is continuing to take shape, which will address a longstanding food insecurity need for residents in this area.
There are also plans to build several new multi-use trails for easier access and mobility throughout the county, along with the upcoming design and master plan that will transform the Arboretum and NC Cooperative Extension facility for an improved urban agriculture and garden experience.
Project Grace is certainly a major endeavor, and something we are truly proud to see come to life over the coming years. It, along with the many initiatives underway, are examples of the forward-thinking work happening in New Hanover County.
When I think about these projects, I don’t think about construction. I see the creation of spaces to work, play, learn, grow and keep our residents safe, continuing our commitment to enhancing the quality of life for everyone throughout the community.