Government Center Redevelopment
New Hanover County is currently undergoing a process to redevelop the county’s Government Center, located at 230 Government Center Drive in Wilmington, NC. The redevelopment will include a newly-designed facility for county offices including an Emergency Operations and 911 Center, as well as private development suitable for the site that will generate additional tax revenue for the city and county in perpetuity.
On June 15, 2020, the Board of Commissioners approved a development agreement, moving the project into its next phase to finalize the design, and complete the preconstruction and permitting work needed to break ground in January 2021.
The Government Center was originally constructed as a single-story retail shopping center in 1989 and the county bought and renovated the building beginning in 2002. The approximate size of the building is 136,654 square feet and the total acreage of the lot is 15.01 acres.
Because of the age of the structure and amount of unusable and inefficient space that exists, it has become expensive to operate and would require a significant amount in additional maintenance and repair investments over the next 20 years. The building also has workspace inefficiencies for county staff, is difficult for customers to navigate, and has an inefficient environmental footprint.
In addition, the Emergency Operations and 911 center is a third of its needed size to accommodate the essential emergency staff that respond during a disaster, and it must be enhanced and made more resilient.
The vision for the project is:
- Purpose-built, energy-efficient facility that is built for its intended purpose and will serve the county well into the future.
- Customer-focused design, where the public is greeted and helped at one easy-to-find place to access the services they need.
- Efficient operations for employees and customers, for how the county does business today and well into the future.
- Resilient, safe, and secure building to meet the demands and needs of New Hanover County during storm events and other emergencies.
- Mindful stewardship of the public’s resources, and direct alignment with the county’s Strategic Plan and Model of Good Governance
- Increased tax base by partnering with the private sector to develop a mixed-use commercial and residential site, with affordable housing.
During the construction of a new county facility, county services will remain operational in the current Government Center building and will be moved directly into the new building once it is finished, to ensure continuity of services.
Under the approved development agreement, the county will retain ownership of the land where a new Government Center is built and then sell the other half of its land (approximately 7.5 acres of the total 15.01 acres) to the developer – Cape Fear FD Stonewater, LLC – for the construction of a mixed-use residential and commercial development.
Then, the developer will construct the county’s Government Center at its expense, and provide a lease-financing option for the county to own the building after 20 years of annual payments. At the end of 20 years, the county will own the building without any debt, and the private development will continue to generate tax revenue in perpetuity without any additional cost to the county.
Financial overview of the project:
- Revenue to the county from property sale to the developer: approximately $5 million ($15.28 per square foot)
- Annual lease-financing rate paid by the county (for 20 years): $4.5 million (this amount includes the overall construction costs for a new government center and EOC & 911 Center)
- At least $70 million in phased, private development, which will generate annual county and city tax revenue of more than $730,000 initially (and that will continue to grow over time)
Below are general design renderings of a new Government Center building and preliminary layout. All designs are still conceptual and nothing is finalized.
June 2020-January 2021
- Finalize building and site design, and complete the preconstruction and permitting work
- Tentative groundbreaking for Government Center building, Emergency Operations, and 911 Center
- Tentative ribbon cutting and move into new Government Center
- Tentative demolition of existing Government Center, groundbreaking for park
- Tentative ribbon cutting for park
Per the development agreement, the private development on the site would begin no later than two years after the sale of the land to the developer. Phase 1 includes a mixed use development with workforce housing and Phase 2 includes commercial/office use (note: Phase 2 would begin no later than seven years after the sale of the land to the developer).
Project timeline from the start through approval:
- August 12, 2019: New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the county to send out a request for qualifications for a public-private partnership.
- August 30, 2019: Request for Qualifications released
- October 22, 2019: Deadline for Receipt of Statements of Qualifications
- November-January: Internal review of proposals
- January 21, 2020: Commissioners voted to move forward with a development team that consists of a joint venture partnership between GHK Cape Fear Development and FD Stonewater, local architectural firm LS3P Associates and engineer SEPI. And the county entered into a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the developer.
- January-June 2020: Programing phase of the project with the development team and the county’s internal project team (this included a program assessment outlining the county’s needs, the development and management structure including the proposed funding structure of the project, and preliminary design work for the project).
- June 15, 2020: The Development Agreement was presented to the Board of Commissioners and a public hearing held, with Commissioners voting to proceed with the redevelopment.
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.
A public-private partnership for the Government Center redevelopment places the risk and management responsibility for the development on the developer, so the county can capture the potential and value of the site, decrease the county’s risk in redeveloping on our own, and also bring tax revenue to the county and city.
Below are professional associations focused on public-private partnerships: