courthouse-clocktowerHere in New Hanover County, the community, elected officials and county staff cooperate to balance a high quality of life with a progressive business and economic climate.

At less than 200 square miles, New Hanover County is the second smallest – geographically – of the 100 North Carolina counties; however, it is home to more than 227,000 people.

New Hanover County is not just a great place in which to live or visit. New Hanover County is also a great place to do business. Tourism, film production, the service and retail sectors are the engines that power our economy.

Our Mission: 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.

The government of New Hanover County is committed to ensuring that you are safe, healthy and secure; that is our promise to you.

New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet serves as chief administrator of county government and maintains responsibility for administering all departments under the general control of the five-member Board of Commissioners.

The county manager’s work includes the development of the county’s annual budget. The budget is the policy document, financial plan, and operations guide and communications device of county government. It reflects the county’s response to the needs of the community and residents’ requests for services. New Hanover County’s government operates on a $392 million multi-fund budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2018 and ends June 30, 2019, serving more than 227,000 residents.

In addition, the manager and his executive leadership team are responsible for aligning the operations of the county to the adopted strategic plan and advancing the county’s mission and vision through five key focus areas: superior education and workforce, superior public health and safety, intelligent growth and economic development, strong financial performance, and effective county management.

Mr. Coudriet has served as the county manager since July 2012. Prior to his appointment, he served as assistant county manager for New Hanover County for four years and as county manager in Franklin and Washington counties, N.C.

Mr. Coudriet has nearly twenty-five years of public administration experience, with more than a decade as a county manager in North Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from East Carolina University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

He is a native of eastern North Carolina. Chris and his wife, Leigh, and two children Montgomery and Silas, reside in Wilmington.

New Hanover County has received the final economic development target analysis report from Jay Garner titled Pathways to Prosperity: New Hanover County’s Plan for Jobs and Investment and it’s critical companion piece, the Competitive Realties Report.

Manager's Message

The possibilities of Project Grace

Posted February 18, 2019 at 4:29 pm

By County Manager Chris Coudriet

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, from neighbors, and from 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 February 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’s Legislative Priorities Put Residents First

Posted January 24, 2019 at 4:00 pm

By County Manager Chris Coudriet New Hanover County Commissioners have been working hard to prioritize and advocate for our county’s local legislative goals for 2019-20, and they have been working … Read More »


One Thousand, Five Hundred and Ten

Posted December 20, 2018 at 2:17 pm

By County Manager Chris Coudriet One thousand, five hundred and ten. That’s the number of New Hanover County employees who stayed behind, served our community, and supported our residents for … Read More »


For These Things and More, I Am Thankful

Posted November 20, 2018 at 8:25 am

By County Manager Chris Coudriet Thankful. It’s a word most of us use around this time of year but it feels incredibly fitting for me to use it now as … Read More »


Resiliency is Key to Economic Recovery After Florence

Posted October 19, 2018 at 1:56 pm

By County Manager Chris Coudriet New Hanover County experienced significant impacts from Hurricane Florence. The preliminary damage assessment across the county is more than $450 million in real and personal … Read More »