County Projects are Investments in Our Future
By County Manager Chris Coudriet
A new fire station, library, Public Health and Social Services building, and the potential development of Project Grace.
Those are four of the major projects New Hanover County is working on right now, and they are all strategic investments to help better serve our citizens and enhance the quality of life in this community.
Each of these projects helps to move the county forward and further the Board of Commissioners’ priorities outlined in the county’s strategic plan. So, I wanted to take this opportunity and provide you, our citizens and taxpayers, with an update on their progress.
Ogden Fire Station
The construction of a modern 13,706 square foot Ogden Fire Station, located at 7375 Market St., will improve public access, emergency response capabilities and employee safety at one of the busiest fire stations in the unincorporated county. This station alone responded to 903 calls in 2017.
The original 8,800 square foot facility, which was built in 1961, was constructed as an all-volunteer fire station, and was modified several times over the years to accommodate increasing staff and response demands. New Hanover County Fire Rescue needed a new state-of-the-art fire station, and we are almost there.
Construction on the station began in August 2017 and is about 50 percent complete, so it is on time to be finished in September of this year. While construction is underway, Ogden Fire Station has been temporarily located at 7572 Old Oak Road. You can learn more about this project on Fire Rescue’s website.
Pine Valley Branch Library
The Pine Valley Branch Library, located at 3802 South College Road, will replace the existing Myrtle Grove Library and will serve the growing population of more than 114,000 residents who live in a five-mile radius of the library.
Back in 1993 when the Myrtle Grove Library was first opened, the population within a five-mile radius of the library was 43,258. In 2020, that area’s population is projected to be 126,000. So, the need for a new library is clear, and Pine Valley is being built to accommodate that growth.
With 19,541 square feet of flexible space, the Pine Valley Branch Library will be more than triple the size of the Myrtle Grove Branch and will house a collection of new materials, a children’s room with space for story time, an outdoor learning space, a community meeting room with a capacity of 200-plus, as well as enough study and computer space to meet a variety of service demands.
Construction on the new library began in November 2017. It is about 30 percent complete, with good progress in the wall framing, structure and roof. It is expected to be complete in January 2019, and you can see visuals of the design and learn more about this great neighborhood library on the Public Library’s website.
Public Health and Social Services Building
New Hanover County’s Public Health and Social Services Building will co-locate the Public Health Department and Department of Social Services to provide convenience for clients and create efficiencies in service offerings.
The new building will be constructed behind the current Department of Social Services site, located at 1650 Greenfield St. It will be four stories and 96,103 square feet, have a green roof, and will consume approximately 29 percent less energy than a standard building the same size. There will be a public transportation stop dedicated to the building, conveniently located near the public entry. And, most importantly, it will make it easier for our clients to access the services they need.
Construction is expected to begin in June and the new building is projected to be complete, with Social Services and Health staff moved in, by January 2020. A groundbreaking for the building will be held on Wednesday, May 23 at 11 a.m. at the site, and the community is invited to attend. More details, including a rendering of the building, can be found on the county’s website.
New Hanover County is moving into the next phase of Project Grace to explore the options of entering into a public-private partnership for the potential redevelopment of a three-acre county-owned block in downtown Wilmington.
The county is now in the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) phase to find the most qualified project teams. Then, those top qualified firms, if the board chooses, will be invited to submit a full development proposal by December.
This project has the potential of adding community value by incorporating a modern public library, Cape Fear Museum, usable green space, and a parking deck on the block, supported by private investment.
A space needs analysis was recently conducted to identify the needs of both the museum and library, and it revealed that co-locating these assets would enhance the visitor experience, bring improved services to patrons, and draw more visitors in – beyond what each facility is capable of currently.
Once development proposals are received and reviewed at the beginning of 2019, there will be more opportunities for the community to provide input on Project Grace, if the board chooses to move forward. And, in the new fiscal year, we expect to conduct a separate study to determine the future use of the existing museum site on Market Street.
As you can see, New Hanover County is moving forward through strategic investments that will benefit our residents and our visitors for years to come.