New Hanover County’s “Project Grace” is a potential redevelopment opportunity of a three-acre county-owned block in downtown Wilmington. The block is bordered by Grace, Third, Chestnut, and Second streets and currently includes the county’s Main Public Library, a parking deck, and several underutilized surface parking lots.
The project will potentially incorporate a public-private partnership, where the county would work with project teams to redevelop part of the site – adding taxpayer value through private investment – and also incorporate a modern Public Library, Cape Fear Museum, and parking deck.
Community input will continue to be welcome throughout this project, and can be given at any time by emailing project staff.
Project Grace is a strategic initiative focused on leveraging public infrastructure to encourage private development, ultimately serving our community as a project focused on Intelligent Growth and Economic Development.
New Hanover County is in the unique position of owning an entire city-block in downtown Wilmington. This block currently includes a New Hanover County Library and a 640-space parking garage, but a large portion of the block is underutilized.
The vision for this block is to house a modern public library and Cape Fear Museum, better utilize the parking garage, and include private space for retail, residential, office, or hotel opportunities.
In July 2017, a feasibility study was conducted outlining a path forward. The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously directed staff to proceed with issuing a Request for Proposals from project teams, which explores the options of entering into a public-private partnership.
What is a Public Private Partnership?
According to the Urban Land Institute, “Public-private partnerships are considered “creative alliances” formed between a government entity and private developers to create a common purpose.” This kind of partnership builds collaborative relationships, allows sharing of resources, minimizes the county’s risk, creates greater efficiencies, and furthers the community’s economic development potential. Below are professional associations focused on public-private partnerships:
New Hanover County issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to the development community in April 2018. Two submissions were received, and they are currently under review by the evaluation team. The team will make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners at their September 17 meeting on how to proceed to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Project Grace. Below is a detailed timeline for the project:
|Solicitation/Phase I: Request for Qualifications (RFQ) released||April 30, 2018|
|Statements of qualifications from project teams due||June 15, 2018|
|Project team evaluations||July 2018|
|Recommendation to Board of Commissioners on how to proceed to a Request for Proposals (RFP)||September 17, 2018|
|Top qualified teams invited to submit full proposals||September 2018|
|Full proposals due||December 2018|
|Evaluation of proposals, including public input and an independent financial analysis||Early 2019 as target timeframe|
|Recommendation to Board of Commissioners & decision on next steps||2019 (specific timeframe TBD)|
The county will conduct a separate study to determine the future use of the existing Cape Fear Museum site, and that study is not part of this solicitation process.
When the Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with Project Grace proposals, they outlined several key priorities for the project, including:
- Capture the full market potential of the site to maximize revenue to the county, which will help to fund the construction or renovation of a new library and museum on the site.
- Include a modern library and a modern Cape Fear Museum either through new construction or by exploring opportunities for the renovation of existing space.
- Provide usable green space to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the site and outdoor functions of these services.
- Maintain library services in the downtown area during the construction or renovation process.
- Comply with the City of Wilmington’s maximum height limit for this block, which is 132 feet. The size, massing, and historical context of all proposed structures must be compatible with surrounding buildings.
- Provide a pedestrian friendly site design that is integrated into the downtown grid street network. And make accommodations for traffic and buses transporting groups to the museum and library.
- Ensure sufficient parking for library and museum patrons, as well as parking that accommodates the private development.
Below are presentations given to the community and Board of Commissioners about Project Grace.
Above is New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet’s presentation at the December 2017 Power Breakfast, “Synergy: Transforming a downtown block by creating a cultural and educational nexus”.
Learn more about Project Grace in these messages from County Manager Chris Coudriet:
- Project Grace And The Possibility Of Redevelopment
- Redevelopment Of County Property Has Economic Development Potential
The Project Grace presentations below have been presented publicly to the Board of County Commissioners, media, and several community groups.
You can watch the consultant’s presentation at the July 17, 2017 Board of Commissioners meeting, and staff’s presentation at the October 2 Board of Commissioners meeting. Click on the images below to view the presentation slides.
Community input has been an important part of Project Grace, and will continue to be welcome throughout the project. If the Board of Commissioners chooses to move forward, the next stage of structured public input will come once the development proposals are submitted at the end of 2018. The public can also provide feedback at any time by emailing project staff.
Below is a summary of the public input that has helped shaped Project Grace so far…
New Hanover County Commissioners and county staff have received emails and helpful feedback from the public since the Project Grace study was presented in July 2017. In addition, two information meetings were held on September 18 and 19, 2017, to provide information about the study and possible scenarios for redevelopment. The public was able to provide written input at these meetings and ask one-on-one questions from staff.
Click on the icons below to view letters of support and input from the Public Library Advisory Board and Cape Fear Museum Advisory Board:
New Hanover County issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to the development community in April 2018. Submissions were due in June, and they are currently under review by the evaluation team. The links below provide background information for the public and project teams to reference.
- Request for Qualifications – General Information (scroll down to RFQ-Project Grace)
- Space Needs Analysis for the Downtown Library and Cape Fear Museum