Wilmington council approves redevelopment of old theater on Oleander Drive

Wilmington council approves redevelopment of old theater on Oleander Drive

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Credits rolled on the movie theater on Oleander Drive years ago, but the property is finally getting a reboot.

The old movie theater property on Oleander Drive will be transformed into a mixed-use development.
The old movie theater property on Oleander Drive will be transformed into a mixed-use development.

On Tuesday, Wilmington City Council approved a rezoning request for 5335 and 5429 Oleander Drive from community business to office and Institutional, with conditions, paving the way for the property’s redevelopment.

Attorney and former state senator Michael Lee represented the developers at the council meeting, arguing that the project is a “down-zoning” of the land, and would actually reduce traffic and improve access to nearby businesses.

Lee said without a rezoning, the land could support any number of businesses up-to and including a big box retailer such as Walmart. In fact, he said, a Walmart was nearly constructed on the site in recent years, and could have been without the council’s approval.

The mixed-use development, which will consist of three four-story buildings providing both residential and commercial space, will actually generate less traffic, Lee said.

Based on their estimates, the mixed-use project would generate around 2,000 fewer vehicle trips than a big-box retailer would.

During the public hearing, neighboring business owners spoke in favor of the project, saying they think this will bring an infusion of activity to the area.

There were a few residents of the neighboring residential neighborhoods concerned about the effect on traffic, but Lee said while traffic will worsen due to overall growth in Wilmington, the development will not have an effect.

Protest vote

While the council did approve the rezoning, it was not unanimous.

Plans for the future of the former movie theater site on Oleander Drive depict three four-story buildings (Source: City of Wilmington).
Plans for the future of the former movie theater site on Oleander Drive depict three four-story buildings (Source: City of Wilmington).

Council member Clifford Barnett said he thinks the project is a great idea, but he voted against it because it does not address the city’s growing shortage of affordable housing.

“The project is a great project. It’s good to take places that are not being used and to make them usable for the community. I agree with the project," he said. "However, one of the things that I’m really concerned about is the lack of affordable housing and workforce housing in our community.”

Barnett said he didn’t think his vote would change the outcome of the rezoning question, but wanted to make it clear to the other council members he thinks they can do more.

“It’s just a reminder to us on city council that we really have to be intentional about securing housing for people who work, as well as for those who can’t afford proper housing.”

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