Project Grace

Aerial View of Project Grace Block

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.

 Sign up for periodic project updates here.

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 – at the October 1, 2018 New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting – Commissioners approved inviting the two qualified teams to submit development proposals. Below is a detailed timeline for the project:

Project Timeline Date
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 October 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:

Watch 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 RFP Recommendation Presentation - Link to PDF

Project Grace Community Meeting Presentation - Link to PDF

Project Grace Redevelopment Scenarios - Link to PDF

Project Grace Study Report - Link to PDF


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 in early 2019, after the development proposals are submitted. The public can also provide feedback at any time by emailing project staff.

 Sign up for periodic project updates here

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.

View written comments from the information meetings »

View the community meeting presentation » 

View the informational flyer provided to the community »

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 Public Library Logo   Cape Fear Museum Logo

Contact us about Project Grace »

In April 2018, New Hanover County began a two-step solicitation process for the potential development of Project Grace by releasing a request for qualifications. Two development teams submitted qualifications and, at the October 1 Board of Commissioners meeting, county staff recommended that the board invite these two teams to submit a full development proposal for Project Grace. The board approved, and the solicitation process is now in its second step with a request for proposals. Full proposals from the development teams are due December 14; and then an evaluation of the proposals, including public input and an independent financial analysis, will take place in early 2019.

The two project teams, and their full statement of qualifications, can viewed below:

The additional links below provide background information for the public and project teams to reference.

Office of Strategy: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 191 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7184 • Fax 910-798-7277