SPECIAL REPORT: Finish what you started - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

SPECIAL REPORT: Finish what you started

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Throughout New Hanover County, there are a number of 'Coming Soon' signs that have been posted for years, advertising future businesses that have failed to materialize.

A couple of the most visible include the sign advertising a future movie theater near Monkey Junction, and the sign saying that a Harris Teeter is on the way to Carolina Beach.

Harris Teeter corporate tells us there are no plans to break ground in Carolina Beach in the immediate future, and declined to give further details. The number for the proposed Belle Meade movie theater was disconnected when we called. A call to the land owner's cell phone was not returned.

These types of delays can also be frustrating for tax payers who approve bonds for projects that get seriously delayed - or never built at all.

In 2006, New Hanover County voters approved a $36 million parks and green space bond. Six years later, some of the promised parks have yet to be built - although it appears most of the money has been spent.

While projects like Love Grove Park, the NorthSide Splash Pad, and Empie Park improvements have already been finished, the $7.5 million Olsen Park project, a joint effort by the city and county, is years behind schedule.

In downtown Wilmington, the million dollars of bond money earmarked for a park was used to help buy back the Water Street Parking Deck instead. City leaders are unsure if that property will be turned into a park in the future.

Downtown resident Ian Geiger says he would use a park if there was one, but isn't entirely surprised the earmarked money hasn't translated to a downtown park. "I think that's kind of to be expected, seems to happen a lot with money we think is going to go one place, and it goes someplace else."

Since the downtown park money has been spent, we asked Mayor Bill Saffo why residents there are still waiting for a park. "In the future there will be a downtown park," he said. "My hopes would be that we could do it within five years. There are some costs associated with it. We've had some preliminary costs that it could be up between 10 and 15 million dollars."

That may come as a surprise to residents who thought the million dollars in bond money they approved for a downtown park would translate to a park. Instead, city leaders say it simply helped them acquire some prime property that might eventually become a park.

The good news is, most of the promised projects are complete, and a few others will be finished in the near future.

Construction is already underway on a new $250,000 park behind Alderman Elementary School, that's expected to be finished this spring. Construction bids for the Inland Greens Park and Golf Course improvements are set to go out this winter, with an anticipated opening this summer.

A few other projects - like the proposed natatorium - never panned out. City leaders say that funding was re-allocated to other green space projects, like the cross city trail.

Coming up next week, WECT investigates what New Hanover County has done with its portion of the bond money.

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