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 by completing the form on the Community Survey tab of this page.
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:
In response to New Hanover County’s Request for Proposals (RFP), a full proposal was received from Zimmer Development Company and team. At the April 14, 2019 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioners discussed Project Grace and unanimously approved a motion to explore alternative options for the county-owned block in downtown Wilmington and to also begin discussions with the Zimmer Development team about the details of their current development proposal. View the press release with more details here.
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||October 2018|
|Full proposals due||December 2018|
|Evaluation of proposals, including public input and an independent financial analysis||January-March 2019|
|Recommendation to Board of Commissioners & decision on next steps||Spring 2019|
|Negotiations and site alternatives||TBD|
The county has conducted a separate study to determine the future use of the existing Cape Fear Museum site, and that study is not part of the Project Grace solicitation process.
When the Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with Project Grace proposals in 2018, 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.
At the April 14, 2019 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioners discussed Project Grace and unanimously approved a motion to explore alternative options for the county-owned block in downtown Wilmington and to also begin discussions with the Zimmer Development team about the details of their current development proposal. View the press release with more details here and watch the meeting video here.
Below are presentations given to the community and Board of Commissioners about Project Grace:
- October 1, 2018: watch staff’s presentation at the Board of Commissioners meeting
- October 2, 2017: watch staff’s presentation at the Board of Commissioners meeting (click on the images below to view the presentation slides).
- July 17, 2017: watch the consultant’s presentation at the July 17 Board of Commissioners meeting
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:
- The Possibilities of Project Grace, February 18, 2019
- County Projects are Investments in Our Future, May 21, 2018
- Project Grace And The Possibility Of Redevelopment, September 11, 2017
- Redevelopment Of County Property Has Economic Development Potential, February 10, 2017
Development Team & Qualifications
Click on the logos to below to view each company’s qualifications.
Community input has been an important part of Project Grace, and will continue to be welcome throughout the project. Residents are encouraged to provide their feedback about the project by completing the form on the Community Survey tab of this page.
New Hanover County hosted a Community Forum on May 9, 2019 to provide more exploratory and general financial information for Project Grace and allow members of the community to ask questions about the project. The forum was recorded and can be watched here.
February Public Meetings
Two other public meetings were also held on February 19 and 21 to initially share information about the preliminary redevelopment proposal submitted by Zimmer Development Company. A short presentation with an overview of the proposal was given at each meeting and the remainder of the time attendees were able to ask questions one-on-one with county staff and the proposal team. In addition, attendees has an opportunity to provide written feedback about the proposal at both meetings.
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.
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: